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With many Illustrations. Demy 8vo. 

YvETTE GuiLBEKT and Harold Simi'son. Profusely Illustrated 
with Caricatures, Portraits, Facsimiles of Letters, &c. Demy 8vo. 
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WAGNER AT HOME. Fully translated by Effie Dunreith 
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<L%^e/te^ ^^^■'cli/'e^^ 











Published 1910 


YvETTE GuiLBERT ..... Frontispiece 

From a photo by Boissonnas &" Tapotiier. 



YVETTE GuiLBERT ...... 60 

From a paintitig by Josi Granii. 

YVETTE GuiLBERT ...... 90 

From a painting by Bennevuitz von Loe/en. 

The First Poster announcing Yvette Guilbert's 

First Appearance in Paris . . .118 

Yvette Guilbert ...... 120 

From a pastel by Benntwitz von Loe/en. 

Yvette Guilbert . . . . . .150 

From a pastel by Bennewitz von Loe/en, 

A Poster by Charles Li£andre for a Tourn^e 
which Yvette Guilbert undertook with 
some Montmartre Singers . . . i6g 

Yvette Guilbert . . . . . .188 

From an enamel made by the /amous painter Toulouse-Lautrec. 

Yvette Guilbert ...... 199 

An initial letter ( }') by Charles LMndre. 



Another Poster by F. Bac .... 204 
yvette guilbert ...... 237 

From a caricature by L. Cappiello. 


From a painting by Jose GraniS. 


From a poster by Maurice Neuiiiont. 


From caricature by Charles Leattdre when she first went to 


DES VARliT^S IN PARIS .... 284 

Frotn a photo by Manuel, Paris. 


From a caricature by Brotl, a Hungarian caricaturist. 


From a caricature by Charles LSandre. 


Housemaid" ...... 316 


From a drawing by Charles Lcandt-c. 


From a poster. 

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I FEEL it my first duty, a duty I owe to my faith and 
to my conscience, to express my thanks to Almighty 
God for all His mercies. His Hands have shaped 
my destiny — the struggles I have endured have but 
served to make me the better appreciate my victories. 

God has manifested Himself in many forms and 
at every crisis of my life. Since the day of my birth 
He has given me my full complement of joys and 
sorrows ; has permitted me to live my life to the 
full ; to experience all the varying vicissitudes of 
human existence. I can never thank Him enough for 
not letting my lot be one of exclusive happiness. 

How grateful I am to Him for having allowed me 
to taste of grief ; to know the bitterness of tears, 
and permitted me to suffer the pangs of body and 
mind ; and for having instilled in me a readiness to 
weep for the sorrows of others, bom of the tears I 
have wept for my own. 

It is just my own struggles and griefs that have 
made me so sensitive of the woes of others. What 
mental agonies I have endured both for myself and 
for my fellow-creatures ; for all humanity, in fact ! 
How strange and fearful a joy it is to feel that one 
finds reflected in one's own breast the troubles of a 
whole world of aching hearts ! Those who have 



simply lived and gone their way will not understand 
me. But those who have felt with such intensity, 
as I have done, the joys and sorrows of their " neigh- 
bour," and have steeped themselves therein, as it 
were, must surely have locked away in their hearts 
a knowledge of the goodness of God. It is this that 
has given me some of life's sweetest moments ; so 
that it is not for my own life alone that I owe thanks 
to God, but for all those other lives that I have lived 
and shared in my love for my neighbour. 

How many times have I not cried my thanks, oh 
God, to You, for keeping me free from a spirit of 
callous indifference, and for suffering my heart to go 
out to the hearts of others in pity and sympathy. 
Thanks that my own knowledge of unhappiness has 
made me tender-hearted, and sympathetic to the 
unhappiness of others ! Thanks, too, for having 
known the meaning of hunger, and anxiety for the 
morrow ; for the hours of despair, and for being 
allowed to realise the selfishness of those who refuse 
you all assistance. Thanks for letting me meet on 
my journey through life with the selfish, the cruel, 
and the ungrateful ; for having strengthened my 
will and my courage, and for making me what I am 
in the midst of so much evil example ; for having 
answered my prayers when I prayed aright. But 
thanks, too, for not having answered all my foolish 

And I crave pardon for having doubted You, 
and for having followed ignorant counsels ! My 
extreme youth must be my excuse for those early 


years of mine when I was utterly devoid of faith. 
Many a time since have I realised my ingratitude 
towards You ; You who have suffered my eyes to 
see the light, the sun, the marvels of Nature ; my 
ears to hear life's wonderful voices ; have given me 
the gift of speech, the full use of my limbs, and 
allowed no infirmity to distress my life. 

I have loved work, and You have given me courage ; 
I have loved Art, and You have given me the means 
to enjoy it. My poor efforts, first as a seamstress, 
then as an artiste, have often met with rebuffs and 
disappointments, but I was always confident, thanks 
to Your Mercy, of arriving at my goal at last. My 
strength has come from Heaven, and for the last 
fifteen years more especially I have been filled with a 
strong sense of Divine Influence. 

And so I thank You, oh my God ! more for the 
struggles and the hours of unhappiness which have 
been my lot in life than for its joys and its successes ; 
for they have fortified my soul, and lifted up my heart, 
and given me such virtues as I may possess. Without 
these struggles I should perhaps have been an egotist 
like the rest ! 

I do not think that one can achieve an individuality 
except under the discipline of grief, which engenders 
in one a spirit of love for one's fellow-men, and brings 
one in touch with the Divine. And above all I thank 
You, oh my God ! for having given me at the turning 
point of my career a comrade, sought for so long in 
vain, to offer me the chalice of his noble heart in which 
to drink my happiness ! 


What a glorious day that was for me ; and what 
paeans of gratitude my heart has sung to You, oh 
God, for thirteen years ! 

What union has ever been more perfect ; what 
marriage ever so wonderful as this of mine ? What 
fuller and more complete reward could a poor sensitive 
heart have found for all the crosses and martyrdoms 
of life ? 

And so, I have felt it my duty to dedicate these 
few lines of humble gratitude to Almighty God, 
seeing that my Struggles and my Victories are all 
His Handiwork. 






Du plus lointain de mes souvenirs qui remontent d 
1870, I'annee de la guerre Franco-Allemande, je ne vois 
qu'images de miseres. . . . 

Des petits logements pauvres, ou tres modestes, dans 
des rues populaires, des escaliers humides, sales, des cours 
grises, etroites, sans air, des chambres oil Von n'avait 
pas chaud I'hiver, ou I'on mourait de chaleur VEte. La 
plupart du temps perches au sixieme etage de la maison 
mon pere et ma mere aeraient leur petit domaine par des 
fenetres, dites tabatieres, restant du style architectural du 
XVIII siecle. 

Par hazard, dans le courant de mes premieres annees 
un balcon ! On louait V appartement pour ce balcon 
qui servait de jardin, de square et meme . . . de Cam- 
pagne, car les tres modestes ressources de mes parents 
ne leur permettaient pas de frequentes sorties hors Paris, 
et comme nous habitions toujours dans les quartiers loins 
du centre, le Bois de Boulogne me fut longtemps inconnu ! 
II fallait y alter et en revenir d pied, et avec une fillette qui 


■\ " 



The earliest of my remembrances, which date 
back to 1870, the year of the Franco-German war, 
recall nothing but a picture of almost indescribable 

The vision of tiny squalid, or at best modest, 
lodgings, situated in crowded thoroughfares ; of 
damp and dirty staircases, and grey courtyards, 
narrow and stifling ; of rooms in which one was 
frozen in winter and suffocated in summer. Living 
for the most part on the sixth floor, my father and 
mother were used to rooms ventilated only by small 
skylights, relics of an eighteenth century style of 

By a happy chance my earliest days could boast 
of a balcony ; in fact the rooms had been taken 
for the sake of this very balcony, which served me 
for garden, square, and even country, all in one. 
My parents' very modest means did not allow of 
many excursions out of Paris ; and as we always 
lived in quarters far removed from the heart of the 
town, the Bois de Boulogne was for a long while to 
me an undiscovered land. It meant going there and 



marchait a peine, la chose devenait une corvee plus qu'un 

Ma mere, sortie d'une famille de bourgeois tres aises 
d'une Province de France (Nord) avait du se plier aux 
exigences d'une vie tres modeste, sa dot ayant ete perdue, 
au debut de son mariage, dans de mauvaises affaires. 
Mon pire, plus vieux qu'elle d'une annee, {il avait alors 
25 ans), etait fils de cultivateurs normands. 

Sans un sou, il avait Spouse ma mere, et I'avait 
obligee a travailler des les premieres annees de leur 
union — chez mon pere les principes etaient catalogues : 
La femme devait travailler, fut-elle riche, a plus forte 
raison, etant pauvre. ... Et ma mere travailla, 
travailla de 20 a 40 ans, comme une femme douee d'une 
energie superieure peut seule travailler. . . . Elevee en 
province comme une " demoiselle," elle connut la 
misere la plus atroce, celle ou plus rien n'est epargne, 
celle qui apporte tous les desespoirs, toutes les hontes, 
celle des jours sans pain, sans feu, sans logis, sans 
meubles, sans rien, rien, rien . . . qu'un enfant sur 
les bras. . . . Elle connut tout cela ! 

Et pendant de tres tongues annees je vis la lampe 
allumee tard la nuit, pendant qu'une femme cousait . . . 
cousait ... a sa lumiere jaune, et que son mari rentrait 


back on foot, and for a little girl who could scarcely 
toddle the walk was more of a labour than a pleasure. 

My mother belonged to a middle-class family in 
easy circumstances who came from the Province 
du Nord. But she had been obliged to adapt herself 
to very humble conditions of living, owing to the 
fact that her dowry had been lost in an unfortunate 
speculation in the early days of her married life. My 
father, who was a year older than she, (he was about 
25 at the time), was the son of a Normandy farmer. 

Marrying my mother without a penny to his name, 
he had made her work for her living from the very 
earliest days of their marriage. My father had 
certain principles catalogued in his mind ; one of 
which was that a woman should work, even if she 
had money, but ever so much more so if she hadn't ! 
And my Mother worked — worked from the day she 
was twenty years old till the age of forty, as only a 
woman who was endowed with extraordinary energy 
could have worked. She had been brought up in the 
country as a " young lady " ; now, after her marriage, 
she was reduced to a state of abject poverty ; the 
poverty that never knows what it is to have a penny 
put by, the poverty that brings despair and shame in 
its train. There were days when she was without 
food, without fire, without furniture, without a 
roof to cover her ; days when she had nothing, nothing, 
nothing, except the child she nursed in her arms. 
All this did my Mother go through ! 

And year in, year out, I used to see the lamp burning 
late into the night, while a woman sewed, sewed by 


tard les poches videes par le jeu . . . car avec les 
annees le menage s'etait disloque . . . mon pere gagnait 
" Sa" vie, ma mere gagnait la sienne et la mienne sans 
que plus jamais mon pere I'aida. C'etait encore dans 
le catalogue des idees paternelles qu'une femtne devait 
se suffire a elle meme. . . . 

Et si tu etais veuve ? disait-il souvent a ma mere. 

Done je n'ai pas connu mon pere et ma mere dans la 
phase de leur lune de miel. A I' age ou j'ai commence d un 
peu comprendre ce que jc voyais j'ai senti tres"precisement 
la lutte de ma mere pour vivre, elle et moi, isolee d'un 
bonheur perdu, d'un mart qui n'en etait plus un, a cote 
d'un pere qui ne voulait pas prendre la moitie de la charge 
deson enfant. 

Mon enfance ne fut heureuse que pendant une courte 
piriode passee en Normandie chez mes grands-parents. 
Alors Id je connus les gdteries et je connus la joie des 
grands jardins, des grands pres verts, des champs oil je 
gamhadais plus d I'aise que sur mes balcons noirs des 
faubourgs ! 

Mais on me ramena a Paris — pour me mettre en 
pension, car a cette epoque ma mere avail eu la chance 
d'inventer la confection des formes de chapeaux de 
dames, en " crin," et la mode s'en melant, ma mere 
cut tant de commandes des grands magasins de Paris, 
quelle installa un vaste atelier de modistes. 


the yellow light, and her husband came home late 
with his pockets empty — emptied at the gaming-tables. 
For with the course of years the household became 
a divided one, my father earned his own living, my 
mother earned hers and mine without any help from 
him. Another of the principles in my father's mental 
catalogue was that a woman should be self-supporting ! 

" What if you were a widow ? " he would often say 
to my mother. 

But then I never knew my parents in the light of 
their honeymoon days. At the time when I first 
began to understand a little of what I saw, I realized 
very vividly my mother's struggle for existence. 
Two solitary figures we made, she and I, isolated on 
the shores of a lost happiness ; she with a husband 
who was no longer a husband, I with a father who 
refused to take any share in the maintenance of his 

My childhood was not a happy one, save for a brief 
period when I lived with my grandparents in Nor- 
mandy. There I learnt what it was to be spoilt a 
little ; knew the joys of a large garden, of wide green 
meadows, and fields where I could gambol to my 
heart's content ; a pleasant change from my grimy 
balcony in the slums at home. 

But I was brought back to Paris eventually, and 
sent to school ; for my mother had at this time had 
the good fortune to invent a new style in ladies' hats, 
which quickly became the fashion. So many orders 
poured in from the big shops that she set up a large 
establishment of " modistes." 


Pendant 4 helles annees on fut riche . . . on gagnait 
de belles journees et ma mere en profita pour me faire 
instruire dans un hon pensionnat de Saint-Mande. 

Puis le chomage vint, les affaires devinrent ires 
mauvaises, les economies helas s'Spuiserent, et je fus 
retiree de pension. J'avais 12 ans. . . . Des lors, je gagnai 
mon pain ! 

Car ma mere ayant congedie son atelier, se mit a 
faire, chez elle, des ouvrages per les. Nous nous levions 
d 7 heures du matin et travaillions jusqu'd 11 h. dti soir 
pour gagner a nous deux 3 francs par jour. . . . Grace 
a Dieu, ma mere avail des doigts de fee, et savait au bout 
de 24 heures tous les metiers sans en avoir appris aucun. 
Son adresse et sa vivacite tcnaient du prodige. . . . 

Les travaux perles nous aiderent d nc pas mourir 
de faim pendant I'l^te, mais I'hiver arrivant, le feu et 
la lumiere couterent tant d nos pauvres ressources, que 
le proprietaire ne put etrc paye. . . . Mon pere se 
refusant de venir d notre aide, on vendit nos meubles, 
sauf nos lits . . . et nous fumes tous trois sans phis 
rien chez nous. . . . Ma inere se desesperait ! . . . 

J'assistais, helas/ encore impuissante, a ces lamentables 
journees. . . . Puis il fallut sortir du logement non paye, 
et comment etre regus dans un immeuble, oil vous arrivez 
sans aucun repondant ? 


Thus for four happy years we became almost 
well-off, and enjoyed brighter days ; and my mother 
took advantage of this prosperity to give me a good 
education at a boarding-school at Saint-Mande. 

Then the business fell off, and things went from 
bad to worse again. Economy, alas ! was once more 
the order of the day, and I was taken away from 
school when I was twelve years old. From that time 
I had to earn my own livelihood ! 

My mother, having broken up her dress-making 
establishment, now began to do bead-work at home. 
We used to get up at seven, and work till eleven 
o'clock at night, and we made on an average 3 francs 
a day between us. By God's mercy my mother was 
endowed with fingers of supernatural quickness ; and 
she could learn in a day any trade of which she 
had not even studied the rudiments. Her skill and 
energy were something wonderful. 

This bead-work kept us from starving during the 
summer. But when the winter came, the cost of 
food and lighting proved too much for our slender 
resources, and we were left without any money to 
pay the rent. My father refused to come to our 
assistance, and we were compelled at last to sell every 
stick of furniture except our beds. Three of us, and 
nothing but the beds we slept on ! 

My mother was in despair. I, alas ! had to look 
on helplessly during these sorrowful times. Eventu- 
ally we had to leave our rooms with the rent still 
unpaid, wondering how we were going to find new 
ones, when we had no security to offer. 


Un cousin a nous, fort riche, nous refusa 300 francs 
pour acheter l' indispensable . . . et de maison en 
maison on refusa de nous recevoir sans mohilier. . . . 

Pendant ce temps mon perc etait plus que jamais 
pris par sa passion dii jeu, des 500 francs qu'il gagnait 
par mois, ricn ne restait. ... 

Et ce furent les memes luttes chaque saison — ! Des 
mois de travail {n'iniporte lequel) modes, passemen- 
terie, broderie, perlage, confections d'enfants, lingerie, 
robes, tout nous passa par les doigts. Mais les mortes 
saisons revenaient regulieres et terribles, et les meubles 
et le linge, rachetes pendant la periode productive, 
partaient de nouveau. . . . On vendait tout, petit a 
petit, pour manger, pourtant nos lits rcstaicnt toujours, 
sauf deux fois oil j'cus unc maladic d'enfant si grave 
que les soins du medecin obligerent ma mere a vendre 
son matelas pour m' acheter des potions . . . et de douze 
ans a 17 jc n'ai pas connu d' autre vie. . . . 

Quelques semaines de repit par annee, mais des mois 
d'atroce misere, sans plus de meubles, plus de linge, plus 
de bottines, rien, rien . . . qu'une misere atroce doublee 
du chagrin de voir ma mere que j'adorais etre I'hiver 
a peine couverte, pleurant, se desolant, et lutter, lutter 
pour aboutir toujours " dla misere " ! 

Je la revois chaussee de vieilles bottines de mon pere . . . 
allant, trottant dans Paris, moi a ses cotes. A cette 


A rich cousin of ours refused to lend us 300 francs 
wherewith to buy what we needed ; and we went 
from house to house, only to meet with refusal after 

During this time my father became a worse slave 
than ever to his passion for gambling, and squandered 
every penny of the 500 francs he earned each month. 

Every year the same struggle went on. During 
the busy months our fingers were employed on some 
work or other, millinery, lace-work, embroidery, 
bead-work, children's clothes, hosiery, dressmaking, 
or whatever it might be. But the dead seasons 
returned with terrible regularity, and the furniture 
and linen which we had been able to buy back during 
the busy season had once more to be disposed of. 
Little by little we sold everything in order to buy 
food. Our beds were always saved from the wreck, 
though on two occasions, when I was seriously ill with 
some childish complaint or other, my mother had to 
sell her mattress to buy the medicine which the 
doctor prescribed for me. 

This was the sort of life I led from 12 to 17 ! Year 
after year a few weeks of respite, and then months 
of hideous misery ; furniture, linen, boots, everything 
gone ! And the misery was heightened by my grief 
at seeing the mother I adored shivering in winter in 
her scanty clothing, weeping, broken-hearted ; always 
struggling, struggling, and all to no pupose in the 
end ! 

I can see her now, shod in a pair of my father's 
old boots, plodding along the streets of Paris, with 


epoque, elle sortait toujours avec unc grande hoite en hois, 
et 7noi un sac rempii de chapeaux pour dames, et de huit 
heures a minuit, nous " Faisions la place," c'est a dire 
que nous entrions, partout, dans chaque petit magasin 
des faubourgs offrir notre marchandise confectionnee 
I'apres midi. 

Nous prenions tous les soirs un itineraire different. 

Un soir, c'etait le quartier Mo7ttniartre, le lendemain 
c'etait Belleville, puis, le quartier Clichy, puis Menil- 
montant ! Ah ! ces quatre heures de sortie tous les 
soirs d'hiver, par la pluie, la ncige, le verglas ! Ces 
kilometres qu'on parcourait les pieds trempes. . . . 
Quand nous vendions nos petits chapeaux, c'etait bien ; 
on pouvait avec le benefice vivre deux ou trois jours. 

C'etait I'epoque oil toutes les ouvrieres et les petites 
bourgeoises modestes de Paris etaient satisfaites avec 
une petite toque de 6 francs ! Que les temps sont 
changes . . . la moindre midinette veut a present des 
chapeaux de 20 francs, ce qui autrefois etait le chapeau 
des dimanches des petites ouvrieres. 

Quelle tristesse nous prenait, ma mere et moi, quand 
apres les 10 heures de travail de la journee, nous ajoutions 
ces quatre heures de promenade nocturne et que nous 
rentrions sans avoir rien vendu ! Le lendemain 
matin on remettait les pauvres chaussures trouees, 
et mouillees de la veille . . . on revetait ses pauvres 
vetements mal seches, ce que leur donnait cette espice 
de parfum special a la misere, un parfum acre, qui 
ressemble a I'haleine des gens qui restent souvent sans 
manger. . . . 

Ah ! comme je les connais ces deux odeurs la ! 


me at her side. She always carried a large wooden 
box, and I a bag filled with ladies' hats ; and from eight 
o'clock till midnight we were canvassing for orders, 
entering every little shop in the slums to try and sell 
the results of our afternoon's needlework. 

Every evening we chose a different itinerary. One 
evening it would be Montmartre, then Belleville, then 
Clichy, and after that Menilmontant. Shall I ever 
forget those winter evening expeditions ? Four hours' 
tramping in the rain and the snow and the frost ! 
The miles we used to walk with our feet soaked ! 
What joy when we were successful in selling our 
hats ! It meant food and the means to live for two 
or three days ! 

In those days working-girls and modest young 
ladies of the middle class were satisfied with a little 
toque costing 6 francs. How the times have changed 
since then ! Now the most modest of them wants 
a hat costing 20 francs, formerly a luxury which 
work-girls only allowed themselves to wear on Sundays. 

How sad we were, my mother and I, when to our 
ten hours of work during the day we added those 
four hours of tramping in the evening, and then re- 
turned home without having sold anything after all ! 
In the morning we had once more to don our poor 
shoes, almost worn out and still wet from the evening's 
expedition ; put on our clothes, which were hardly 
dry, and exhaled that particular odour which is the 
accompaniment of poverty, a bitter odour, like the 
breath of a person who is half -starved. Ah ! how I 
know them both, those odours ! Whenever people 


Quand des malheureuses viennent me trouver je feux 
dire le degre de leur misere Hen qu'd I'odeur qui se 
degage de leurs vetements et de leurs bouches. . . . 

Je me rappelle qu'un soir, qu'il faisait si chaud, 
chez un marchand de modes du faubourg Montmartre, 
ma mere que f accoynpagnais me voyant, apres le grand 
froid de la rue, me congestionner, me conseilla de sortir, 
et de I'attendre dehors, devant I'etalage. 

J'etais dehors depuis cinq minutes la regardant a 
iravers la vitrc discuter avec le commergant quand 
tout a coup je sens qu'on me prend par la taille ! 
Je bondis de pcur et vois tcrriflee Ics 32 dents blanches 
d'un negre qui se tordait de rire de ma frayeur. Je 
rentre trcmblante dans le magasin, la figure si bouleversee 
qu'il Die faut en dire la cause. 

Ah! ah! C'cst le negre? dit le commergant. II 
est depuis 19 ans dans le quartier et son plaisir est 
chaque soir de /aire peur aux jeunesscs de la rue . . . 
il a une figure terrible mais c'est un excellent homme ! 

Jamais je n'ai pu oublier les dents de ce noir ! ! de 
meme que jamais je noublierai les heures de fatigue 
du soir. . . . Je m'endormais brisee, sur les comptoirs 
des magasins, et ma mere souvent prolongeait expres 
" ses offres de service," comme disent les conmiergants, 
pour prolonger mes repos. Je ne crois pas que bcaucoup 
de femmcs out parcouru Paris et use de leurs pauvres 


who are in want come to see me I can always estimate 
the degree of their poverty by the smell of their clothes, 
and their breath. 

I remember one evening we were in a dressmaking 
shop in Montmartre, which was terribly hot, and my 
mother, seeing that I was stifling after coming out 
of the fresh air, advised me to go and wait in the 
street in front of the shop. For about five minutes 
I stood outside watching my mother arguing with 
the shopman through the window, when suddenly 
I felt someone catch hold of me by the waist. I gave 
a frightened jump, and turning saw the white teeth 
of a negro, who was grinning at my terror. Trembling, 
I rushed back into the shop. My face betrayed the 
emotion I felt, and I had to tell my mother the 

" Ho ! ho ! it's the negro, is it ? " said the shop- 
man. " He's been known in this quarter for the last 
nineteen years, and his chief amusement every evening 
is to go about frightening little girls in the street. In 
spite of his terrifying appearance he's really quite 

But I have never forgotten the gleam of those 
white teeth in that ugly black face, any more than 
I shall ever forget those weary evenings of tramping 
through the streets. So worn out was I sometimes 
that I used to fall asleep on the shop counter ; and 
my mother would purposely prolong her business 
interviews so as to let me sleep on for a while. I 
doubt whether there are many women who have 
ever tramped the pavements of Paris to such an 


pieds les paves de la Capitole autant que ma mere et 
moi ! 

Et ces fatigues qui nous epuisaient et ne nous 
donnaient que le striate necessaire, ces fatigues, nous 
les regrettdmes, quand le commerce, evoluant comme 
le teste, changea sa maniere de faire. 

" Faire la place " ne nous rapportait plus de quoi 
vivre au bout d'un an, et la misere fut alors terrible 
pour ma mere et moi. Comme une fois de plus on 
avail vendu nos meubles, notre linge . . . tout, tout . . . 
m,on pere partit alors et nous laissa seules, aussitot 
ma mere et moi nous deciddmes de changer nos moyens 
de lutte pour la vie. II fut entendu que je tdcherais 
d'entrer employee quelquepart, et, de cette fagon etant 
nourrie, ma mere n'aurait plus tellcment de charges 
sur les bras. 

Et, concluait ma mere, de cette fagon je serai certaine 
que iu manger as tous les jours. . . . Et je pleurais 
heaucoup a I'idee que moi j'allais rempiir regulierement 
mon estomac, quand peut-etre ma mere serait la . . . 
sans pain, tout cela dependait de si peu de chose, d'un 
chdmage, d'une maladie . . . et puis I'idee de se se'parer 
tous les jours, apres ces annees terribles de luttes. II 
me semblait que mes i6 ans defendaient ma mere 
comme un rempart ! II me semblait que " j'etais sa mere " 
. . . qu' allait-elle faire sans moi tout le long du jour ? 


extent as my mother and I, with our poor tired feet, 
did in those days. 

And yet we missed those same weary hours, ex- 
hausting as they were, and yielding us hardly enough 
to provide the bare necessities of life, when business, 
like everything else, altered in time. 

At the end of a year this canvassing for orders no 
longer brought us in even enough to live on, and once 
more my mother and I were in desperate straits. Once 
when we had sold our furniture, our household linen, 
everything we possessed, in fact, my father quietly 
took his departure and left us to face things alone. 
Some new method of struggling for a livelihood had 
to be devised. It was agreed that I should try to 
obtain a situation where I could live in, so that my 
mother would have fewer expenses to battle with. 

" And," said my mother, in coming to this decision, 
" I shall then be comfortable in the knowledge that 
you are getting something to eat every day." 

Then I burst into tears at the thought that while 
I was going to enjoy regular food my mother for all 
I knew might be sitting at home without a crust in 
the house — a state of things which want of work or 
sickness would soon bring about. The idea, too, of 
our being separated after all these terrible years of 
struggling made me feel dreadfully sad. For it 
seemed to my childish imagination that I with my 
sixteen years was to my mother a sort of bulwark ; 
as though it were I who was her mother, and she my 
daughter. What was she going to do without me 
by her side all day long ? 


Enfin, apres bien des raisonnements il apparut clair 
a ma mere que je devais chercher a me faire une situation 
dans le commerce. J'adorais I'activite des affaires, 
done farriverais tres vite, disait maman. Apres 
deux semaines j'avais trouve a entrer " mannequin " 
chez Hentenart, couturier de la rue du 4 septembre, 
j'etais nourrie, habillee, et je gagnais 75 /. par mois — 
c'etait magnifique ! Je rapportais mes 75 /. nets, 
n'ayant jamais d'amendes pour des retards a I'arrivee 
du matin — j'etais un modele d' exactitude. Je le suis 
restee, car depuis 18 ans que je fais du theatre pas une 
seule fois il ne m'est arrive de me faire attendre une 
minute en scene ! 

Ce bonheur, cette tranquillite relative ne dura pas 
. . . apres 10 mois il me fallut quitter cette maison, oil 
Von vous defendait de vous asseoir ! ! Mes jambes 
etaient faites aux dures marches, mais de 8 heures 
du matin a 9 heures du soir, debout d pietiner dans 
trois salons aux tapis Spais qui nous briilaient les 
pieds, furent des tortures que ma sante ne sut pas sup- 
porter. J'allais trouver le patron le priant de nous 
laisser nous reposer, quand nous n'avions pas de clientes 
a servir ; je sentais monter en moi des revoltes devant 
la figure pale et dure de cet ancien petit employe, devenu 
gerant de cette grande maison, bref je devenais si agressive 
qu'il n'attendit pas que je lui donne mon conge . . . il 
me mit a la porte poliinent, sechement, . . . et sortie de Id, 


After a great deal of discussion my mother came 
to the conclusion that I had better look for a business 
situation. I was very fond of business, she said, so 
I was bound to get on. After I had been two weeks 
looking for a situation I obtained one as a model 
at Hentenart's, the ladies' tailor in the rue du 4 
Septembre. I was given food, clothing, and a salary 
of 75 francs a month — think of it ! I always managed 
to avoid fines for being late, and so had a clear 75 
francs to take home to my mother. I was a model of 
punctuality then — I have remained so all my life ; 
for in the eighteen years that I have been on the 
stage I have never kept anyone waiting one single 
minute ! 

Unfortunately this period of comparative happiness 
and freedom from worry did not last. At the end of 
two months I had to leave this establishment where 
they never allowed you to sit down. My legs were 
capable of enduring long walks, but to tramp up and 
down three rooms, that had thick carpets which 
scorched your feet, from eight in the morning till 
nine at night, was a strain which my health would 
not stand. I went to my employer and begged him 
to let us rest when there were no customers to be 
served. Rebellion flared up in me as I looked at the 
pale, hard countenance of the man, who had once 
been only an assistant and was now the manager of 
this great shop, and my manner became so aggressive 
that he did not even wait for me to give notice, but 
politely showed me to the door without further 
parley. When I left there my legs were so swollen 


les jambes enflSes, malades, il me fallut prendre des 
semaines de repos, et retomber a la charge de ma mere ! 

Une femme charmante etait " premiere vendeuse " 
chez Hentenart^ ma jeunesse, mon courage I'avait 
touchee, et quand a son tour elle quitta la maison 
Hentenart pour occuper aux grands magasins du 
Printemps I'emploi de directrice d'un rayon de robes, 
elle m'appela. J'avais i6 ans \ — je jurat que fen 
avais i8 {age exige) et I' on m'accepta d'autant que j'etais 
protegee par cette charmante femme. 

Pendant 8 mois tout alia assez Men, je gagnais 50 /. 
par mois, 5% sur mes ventes . . . je me faisais dans 
la belle saison jusqu'd 125 /. / Nous avions rachete 
{encore f) des meubles, nous commencions a nous tirer 
d'affaires quand ma sante devint si mauvaise, si anemiee 
par I'infdme nourriture de ce magasin qui a cette epoque 
n'avait pas la direction qu'il a aujourd'hui oil les 
employes se declarent heureux, ma sante devifit si 
mauvaise que je dus quitter " le Printemps " ! 

Et alors arriverent pour ma mere et moi des mois 
terribles . . . terribles. . . . Mes experiences chez Hen- 
tenart et au Printemps me semblerent helas suffisantes 
pour tenter de /aire de la couture chez nous; j'avais 
depuis ces deux annies fait la connaissance de dames 
fort elegantes, et j'allais les trouver, les informant que 
lorsqu'elles auraient besoin d'une robe moins elegante, 
moins chere, qu'au magasin, elks veuillent bien 


and weak, that I had to take several weeks' rest, and 
once more become a burden on my mother. 

Luckily a charming woman, who was head sales- 
woman at Hentenart's, had been touched by my 
youth and my courage, and when she in her turn 
quitted that establishment to take up the position 
of manageress of the dress department at the " Prin- 
temps," she sent for me. I was then i6^ years of 
age, but I swore to i8 (the regulation age), and they 
took me on her recommendation. 

For eight months things went well enough. I was 
paid 50 francs a month and 5 per cent, commission 
on sales ; so that in the good season I sometimes 
made as much as 125 francs a month ! We had just 
bought back (once more !) our furniture, and were 
beginning to get our heads above water again, when 
my health became so bad owing to the indifferent 
food which they gave us at this establishment — the 
shop is under different management now and the 
assistants are all happy and contented — that I had 
eventually to leave the " Printemps." 

Then came some terrible months for my mother 
and me. I foolishly imagined that the experience 
I had gained at Hentenart's and at the " Printemps " 
would enable me to try my hand at dressmaking at 
home. I had during these two years made the 
acquaintance of several smart women, so I promptly 
sought them out, and informed them that if they 
ever wanted a frock made, not quite so smart perhaps, 
but also not quite so expensive as those they could 
buy in the shops, they might remember me. Then 


se souvenir de moi . . . et je laissais ma carte et mon 
adresse. . . . 

Je savais que presque toutes Ics parisiennes tres 
chic ont une " Petite Couturier e " pour les chiffons 
feminins de moindre importance, et j'avais compte sur 
la sympathie que j'inspirais pour avoir vite une clientele. 

Seigneur ! j'avais appris bien des choses utiles a la 
vie dans le haut commerce, mais pour notre malheur 
ce qu'il me fallait appendre encore c'etait la coquinerie 
de certaines grandes dames, exploitant ma misere 

Une comtesse, ayant un splendide hotel au pare 
Monceau, etait une telle diablesse, une telle furie, qu'elle 
terrorisait mes ly ans et demi, bien facilement. 

Elle en profitait chaque fois pour diminuer de ma 
modeste petite facturc tout ce qui etait le benefice de mes 
travaux, de sorte que je travaillais pour rien ! ! Elle 
avail un petit " groom " de8 ans sur le siege de sa voiture, 
il lui servait de valet de pied, il avail si peur d'elle qu'il 
pleurait rien que lor squ' elle I'appelait ! 

Pauvre petit . . . mis la par des parents pauvres 
pour gagner sa vie. . . . 

Une autre grande dame, celebre celle-ld pour son 
elegante beaute, venait aussi chez moi. Je lui faisais 
des robes merveilleuscs {du soir) , que 7na mere, remarqu- 
able brodeuse, lui garnissait de fleurs de perles fines, 


I left a card with my name and address and went 

I knew that nearly all the smartest women in Paris 
had a small dressmaker of their own, who made their 
less pretentious frocks, and I imagined that I should 
at once enlist their sympathy and find a " clientele " 

Heavens ! Fashionable dressmaking had taught 
me one or two lessons that were to prove useful, 
but one thing it had not taught me — to our misfor- 
tune — was, what I very soon learnt, the dishonesty 
of certain smart women who were not above taking 
advantage of a poor working-girl. 

There was a certain Countess who had a splendid 
house in the pare Monceau, who was such a she-devil, 
and had such a diabolical temper, that she had no 
difficulty in terrorising me, a mere slip of a girl of ly^. 

She took advantage of this fact to deduct more 
and more from my modest little bill, gradually leaving 
me with no profit at all, so that eventually I was 
doing the work for nothing ! She had a tiny groom 
about eight years old, who acted as footman to her 
carriage, who was so terrified of her that he used to 
burst into tears whenever she called him. 

Poor little fellow ! he had been thrust into this 
situation by his poverty-stricken parents to gain his 
own living. 

Another great lady, who was famous for her beauty, 
was also among my clients. I made her some lovely 
evening frocks, which my mother, who was a wonderful 
hand at embroidery, trimmed with flowers made with 


on passait des nuits a coudre tout cela, pour toucher 
comptant les 250 /. demandes. . . . Mais la grande 
dame recevait le soir tous les deputes, les ministres de 
Paris. La reception alors ayant epuise ses ressources 
la petit ouvriere devait attendre . . . et j'attendais, 
des semaines, et des semaines, allant chaque jour de- 
mander un accompte . . . on me mettait a la porte, 
et je devenais folic de rage quand je lisais que la dame 
" avail hier donne un grand bal,''^ et, ajoutait le 
journal : M^ X. avail une merveilleuse robe brodee de 
Perles, sortie de chez le grand faiseur ! — Cette belle 
madame Id avail la jolie ruse de nous faire coudre a 
ses corsages et a ses manteaux des etiquettes et des 
rubans de faille des grandes maisons oil elle se fournissait 
aussi. — Elle les faisait decoudre des vetements qu'elle 
ne portait plus et nous les cousions a nos commandes ! 

Est-ce beau comme vanite ! . . . De cette fagon elle cachait 
ses economies . . . economies faites aux depens de deux 
femmes qui attendaient pour manger et payer leurs 
fournisseurs et leurs ouvrieres la " Bienvieillance " 
de la belle Madame X. ! 

II y a quinze ans j'ai revu cette femme dans un salon 
oic je chantais, elle disait de moi d'une voix aigue 
et mechanic : Elle avail moins de succes quand elle 


delicate pearls. We spent whole nights over the work, 
as we wanted to handle the money as quickly as 
possible — 250 francs was the amount. But this great 
lady had been giving receptions to Members of Parlia- 
ment, Cabinet Ministers, and other Paris celebrities, 
which had somewhat drained her resources, so the 
poor seamstress had to wait for her money. And I 
went on waiting, week after week. Every day I called 
to ask for payment of my account, only to be shown 
the door. Imagine my indignation when I read in 
the papers one morning that this same lady had given 
a magnificent ball. " Madame X.," the account 
read, " was wearing a wonderful gown embroidered 
with pearls, the creation of one of our most fashionable 
dressmakers." This fine lady, it seems, had dis- 
covered the pretty trick of making us sew on her 
bodices and cloaks the labels and trade marks of 
some big shop or other where she was also a customer. 
She used to have them taken off the dresses she could 
no longer wear, and get us to sew them on the frocks 
we made for her. Isn't vanity a fine thing ! By this 
little ruse she was able to hide her economies from 
the outside world, economies made at the expense 
of two poor women, who for the money to buy their 
daily bread, and to pay their tradesmen and their 
workpeople, had to depend on the benevolence (save 
the mark !) of this precious Madame X. 

Fifteen years ago I met this lady again. It was at 
an "At Home " where I was singing, and I heard 
her speaking about me in shrill, sneering tones : 

" She wasn't quite such a success," I heard her say, 


avait des Soulier s troues . . . aujourd'hui voyez 
comme on fete le talent, le chic, la distinction de cette 
fille. . . . Je I'ai connue, figurez vous, miserable petit 
trottin. . . . Ce soir elle ne me connatt plus ! 

Je yne retournais immediatement et dis tres souriante, 
tres calme, a la dame : 

Voiis vous trompez chere madame . . . le petit trottin 
d'autrefois n'a pas ouhlie qu'il trotta souvent chez 
vous pour le reglement dc ses factures ! ! I 

La dame devint si rouge que tout le monde se mit 
d rire ! 

Unc americaine partit un jour du grand hotel avec 
irois robes livrees par moi oubliant de me les payer . . . ! 
J'appris que plusieurs marchands avaient depose des 
plaintcs contre elle, mais cela ne me payait pas mcs 
etoffes achetees, et mes oitvrieres que je reglais chaque 

Dans les heures difficiles il faut reconnattre que 
seules nos jeunes ouvrieres etaient vraiment bonnes et 
devouees. Files voyaient nos luttes, notre courage, et elles 
participaient a nos peines avec une admirable sensibilite. 

Je garde depuis une tendresse a toutes celles qui 
cousent ! je les aime, elles sont si pleines de compre- 
hension ! 


" when she was running about the streets in thread- 
bare shoes. See how everybody is paying homage 
to-day to the talent, the ' chic ' and distinction of 
this girl. When I used to know her, she was, would 
you believe it, a wretched little errand-girl. Now, 
to-night, she pretends that she doesn't know me ! " 

I turned round at this, and with a sweet smile, and 
in a perfectly calm voice, I said, 

" You are making a mistake, my dear Madame. 
The little errand-girl of other days has by no means 
forgotten you. Nor has she forgotten how often her 
errand was to call at your house and ask for a settle- 
ment of her account ! " 

The lady went red in the face, and everybody 
burst out laughing. 

Another of my little experiences was with an 
American lady, who left her hotel one fine day with 
three dresses which I had supplied her with, and 
which she had forgotten to pay for ! I learnt after- 
wards that several tradespeople had taken action 
against her, but that didn't help to reimburse me for 
the materials I had bought, nor to pay my workpeople 
when Saturday came round. 

These work-girls were most devoted to us, and 
were the only people to show us any kindness when 
times were bad. They realised our struggles, and 
our courage under difficulties, and they shared in our 
sorrows in a wonderfully sympathetic way. 

I still retain a weak spot in my heart for all women 
who earn their living by needlework ; they always 
seem so full of sympathy and understanding. It is 


C'est a I'ouvriere parisienne que je dots le fond de 
mon talent, out, car c'est d'elle que j'ai appris la vie, 
la vie reservee aux filles pauvres qui n'ont personne 
pour les defendre que leur Raison, leur Pudeur, et leur 
Religion. Elles sunt sans controle dans la vie, le pere, 
la mere travaillent chacun de son cote, et pourtant 
beaucoup de ces jeunes filles sont des etres " de purete 
volontaire," car elles savent que leur vertu, c'est leur dot! 

Mais a cote de ces volontaires de ces vierges fortes il 
y a les faibles helas. . . . 

Des I' age de 14 ans j'en entendais de toutes sortes ! 
car sitot ma mere sortie de I' atelier, elles ne se genaient 
pas de raconter leurs amours, leurs joies, leurs peines. 
Ah, j'en ai entendu des histoires de seduction, des reves 
finissant dans des regrets haineux ! 

J'en ai su des fables, magnifiques d'abord, tragiques 
ensuite. . . . 

En ai-je assez entendu maudire leur maternite irregu- 
liere ! et hair l' enfant, fruit de leur inconscient peche. 

Pauvres filles, si Idchement dupees qu elles en etaient 
devenues feroces. Quelles legons profondes que ces 
aventures / 

Comme nous les ecoutions, attentives et bouleversees, 
nous les vierges qui serions a notre tour menacees quand 
I'amour viendrait frapper a la porte de nos cceurs. . . . 


to the work -girl of Paris that I owe the secret of my 
talent as a singer. From her I learnt what life was, 
life as it appears to a poor girl who has no money, 
and no protector save her own reason, modesty, and 
piety. These girls are left entirely to their own 
devices, since their mother and father have generally 
their own business to attend to, and have no time 
to look after them. But none the less many of them 
succeed in keeping straight, realising that their virtue 
is their most cherished possession. Yet side by side 
with the stronger-minded, there are, alas, to be found 
the weak ones also. 

Ever since I was fourteen years old I had been 
brought into contact with both kinds. It was the 
custom of these girls, as soon as my mother had left 
the room, to begin discussing their love-affairs, their 
joys and their sorrows. Ah, I heard some sad stories 
in those days ; stories of love's young dream abruptly 
ended, stories of bitter shame and undying regret. 
Stories that often began brilliantly, and ended in a 
sordid tragedy. How often have I heard them revile 
themselves for their momentary infatuation, and 
express a loathing for the fruit of their unconscious 
sinning ! 

Poor girls ! the dupe of some cur or other, ex- 
perience had made them hard and bitter. There 
was many a solemn lesson to be learnt from their 

And we used to listen to them with ears and eyes 
wide open, we who should have the same danger to 
meet when in time love knocked at the door of our 


Mais quelle belle cuirasse de mefiance cela mettait en 
nous. Pour ma part je me promettais Men de rire aux 
nez des galants quand it en viendrait. 

J'avais appris toutes les ruses masculines, tons 
les pieges tendus par les hommes m'etaient familiers, 
j'avais d i8 ans une vertu d'une solidite a toute epreuve 
— on pouvait venir, on saurait se defendre ! 

De vivre parmi toutes ces pauvres et si jeunes petites 
pecheresses avail fait de moi une jeune fille tres 
curieusement femme, si grave ! si serieuse ! si vieille 
dejd ! C'est dans ce milieu de lutteuses pour le pain 
et I'amour qu'a pousse certainement cette sensibilite 
exager^e, cette amertume, cette ironie, desquelles nion 
metier de chanteuse lira ses e'ffets les plus profonds, 
les plus humains et les plus sinceres. 

J'ai connu la vie sous toutes les formes de ses de- 
tresses. — Celles qui ne furent jamais longuement tres 
malheureuses, ne peuvent pas " savoir " etre tres 
bonnes. . . . 

Cela devient une vertuosite, de savoir comprendre 
certains silences . . . de deviner un drame sentimental 
rien qua la fagon dont on tire V aiguille, ou d la fagon 
dont une femme vous repond quand vous lui parlez, de 
deviner que son cerveau est agite dans la tourmente et 
quelle souffre. 


hearts. And yet this very knowledge engendered 
in us a natural mistrust of humanity — a fine shield 
when danger threatened. For my part I made up 
my mind to laugh in the face of any gallant who 
might come a-wooing me ! 

I had learnt a good deal of the wickedness of men, 
and was well acquainted with all their little wiles. At 
eighteen I was possessed of a virtue that was proof 
against all-comers. Let them come ! I knew how to 
defend myself ! 

Living amongst all these poor young sinners had 
made of me a girl who was already a woman, grave, 
serious, and old before my time. The companionship 
of girls whose whole life consisted of a struggle for 
their daily bread, and the pursuit of their love affairs, 
was no doubt largely responsible for endowing me 
with that excessive " sensibility," and at the same 
time that flavour of bitterness and sense of irony, 
by means of which I have been able to make, as a 
singer, my strongest, my most human and sincere 

I have experienced the unhappiness of life in all its 
forms. Those who have never plumbed the depths 
of misery, have never known what it is to learn the 
lesson of Charity. 

It becomes a sort of " virtuosity " in anyone to 
have the power of interpreting silences, of reading 
a sentimental drama into the manner in which a girl 
will ply her needle, or of divining the emotion that 
is tugging at a woman's heart-strings from the way 
she answers when you speak to her. 


A cette epoque ou je travaillais chez mot, quand Us 
mortes saisons venaient, cela devenait atroce parce que, 
apres les piriodes passees chez " Hentenart " et au 
" Printemps," c'est a dire presque durant 25 mois, 
j'avais He nourrie par ces maisons {regulierement ! !) 
mats quand il fallut, chaque fin de semaine, qu'une 
ou plusieurs clientes ne payait pas ses notes, alter dans 
le quartier chercher la pdture a credit ce fut pour mot 
un supplice ! 

Quels yeux terribles que ceux d'un petit spicier de 
la rue Miromesnil! Quand je disais une fois, mon 
panier plein : Ma mere passera demain, monsieur. . . . 
I'epicier criait devant tout le monde : sans faute, hein 
ma petite? sans cela vous n'avez plus besoin d'entrer 
ici ! Seigneur, j'entendais mon sang sauter dans mon 
coeur et dans mes oreilles ! 

La boulangere etait gentille . . . peut-etre savait- 
elle ce que c'est que la vie des ouvieres a Paris. . . . Mats 
le boucher etait feroce ! apres trois petites notes de 2 
cotelettes, il vous refusait net ! . . . brutal, et insolent ! ! ! 
et de longues semaines se passaient avec du pain, et du 

Une fois je fis une grande et stupide surprise a ma 
mere. II y avait bien vingt jours que nous n'avions 
goute un jnorceau de viande, quand etant descendue 


(From a painting by Jcic Granii}.) 


During this time when I was taking in needlework 
at home, the slack seasons brought me fresh misery. 
While I was at Hentenart's and afterwards at the 
" Printemps," a period of about twenty-five months 
altogether, I had had regular (almost too regular) meals. 
But now it was generally necessary at the end of the 
week, when one or more of my customers had failed 
to pay their accounts, to get food in on credit from 
the shops in the quarter, which to me was positive 

The little grocer in the Rue Miromesnil had the 
most horrible eyes, I remember. Once when I said 
to him, after purchasing my groceries, " My mother 
will call and pay you to-morrow," he cried out loudly, 
so that everyone standing round could hear, " She 
had better, young woman, or you won't deal here any 

God in Heaven ! I could hear my heart thumping 
with the shame and indignation I felt ! 

The baker's wife was a decent woman. No doubt 
she knew something of what a work-girl's life in Paris 
was like. But the butcher was a brute. If we 
owed him for a few paltry cutlets he would refuse, 
with blunt and brutal insolence, to supply us with 
anything more until we had paid. Then for weeks 
together we would have to live on bread and 

Once I planned to give my mother a big surprise, 
rather a stupid one as it turned out. We had not 
tasted a morsel of meat for about three weeks, and 
while on my way to buy a pennyworth of cheese, I 


chercher 3 sous de frontage, je passais devant un superbe 
magasin de volailles ! 

Ah! si je pouvais faire manger a maman une de 
ces superbes betes ! 

II y avail etale dans de beaux plats, des poulets cuits, 
et enloures de cresson. Je les regardais . . . puis, 
ma foi, je me risquais . . . j'entrais dans la boutique. 

Combien le poulet ? 

Cinq francs, ma petite demoiselle. 

Eh bien, dis-je d'un air tres autoritaire, faites porter 
ce poulet chez Madame Guilbert, rue de la Boetie 42, 
et j'ajoutais : le poulet vous sera paye a domicile . . . 
j'ai depense tout ce que j'avais dans mon porte-monnaie. 

Peu de temps apres je vis le gargon partir avec le 
poulet . . . ! J'etais folle de joie a I' idee de la surprise 
de ma mere, et je savais qu'on paierait des qu'on aurait 
de V argent, le commergant, lui, ne mourrait pas d'attendre 
cinq francs, et quel service humain cela nous rendait ! 

Je suivis le gargon . . . il entra chez nous . . . et 
. . . redescendit avec son poulet ! J'etais stupide 
d' emotion. Je courus apres lui. 

Eh bien, lui dis-je, vous remportez votre poulet? 
Pourquoi ? 

La dame I'a refuse. . . . 

Comment ? qua t-elle dit ? 

Que c'elait une erreur, quelle n' avail rien commande. . . . 


passed a shop window in which there was a magnificent 
display of poultry, 

" Oh, if I could only get one of those fine birds for 
my mother to eat ! " thought I. 

For there was a row of fowls in the window, already 
cooked, nicely displayed on dishes and garnished with 
water-cress. I looked at them longingly. Yes, I 
would risk it ! I entered the shop. 

" How much are the fowls ? " I asked. 

" Five francs apiece, my little lady," the shopman 

" Very well," said I, with a lofty air, " you can send 
one round to Madame Guilbert, Rue de la Boetie 42. 
And," I added, " it will be paid for on delivery ; I 
have spent all the money I had with me." 

Shortly afterwards I saw the boy leave with the 
chicken. I was delighted at the idea of my mother's 
surprise. We could easily pay later on when we had 
the money ; the shopman would surely not mind 
having to wait for a trifling sum like five francs 1 
And what a kindly action it would be on his part ! 

I followed the boy, saw him mount the stairs to 
our rooms, and then — saw him coming down again, 
with the chicken. For the moment I was quite over- 
come with emotion. Then I turned and ran after him. 

" Why are you taking the chicken away again ? " 
I asked. 

" The lady refused it," said he. 

" What did she say ? " 

" She said," answered the boy, " that it was a 
mistake, and that she hadn't ordered anything." 


C'est evident, dis-je au gargon, puisque c'est moi qui 
suis entree chez vous. Tenez, donnez moi ce poulet, 
je le remonterai moi-meme. 

Et mon argent ? dit le gargon. 

J'irai demain ou apres demain regler cela en faisant 
mes courses, dis-je, le coeur tout chavire. . . . 

Bien . . . Bon . . . dit le gargon . . . du reste si vous 
ouhliez, j'ai I'adresse . . . et il me remit le poulet ! ! ! 

Enfin on allait done manger ! ! 

Quand j'arrivais a la niaison, le poulet fut mis par 
moi en silence sur la table . . . ma mere avail mis 
2 assiettes et deux couteaux, ne s attendant qu'd du 
pain et du fromage. . . . 

J'allais la trouver dans la chambre oil elle travaillait, 
et en riant elle me dit: Nous avons failli avoir un 
dejeuner de gala . . . figures-toi qu'on a apporte ici 
un poulet ? Une similitude de nom sans doute . . . 
naturellement je I'ai renvoye, ce poulet, la dame 
qui le commanda fera meilleure chair que nous . . . 
hein, ma pauvre grande filleP Bah, dis-je a ma mere, 
elle a peut-etre mal aux dents ! 

Tout en parlant maman s'eiait levee et nous allions 
dans la salle a manger oil nous attendait La Surprise. . . . 

Ma mere se mit a rire si fort en revoyant la bete sur 
noire table, que cinq bonnes minutes nous ne pumes 
rien dire . . . elle riait, je riais, elle m'embrassait, 
je I'embrassais, c'etait inoui. . . . 

Et je racontais mon audace. ... 


"Of course," said I, " because it was I who ordered it. 
Here, give me the chicken, I'll take it home myself," 

" What about the money ? " the boy asked. 

" Oh, I'll look in to-morrow or the next day, when 
I'm doing my shopping, and pay for it," I answered 
with my heart in my mouth. 

" All right," he said. " I've got your address 
anyhow." And so saying, he handed me back the 

We were going to eat it after all ! 

When I got home I laid the chicken silently on the 
table. My mother had put out two plates and two 
knives, only anticipating our usual meal of bread and 

I went into the room where she was sewing. She 
looked up and smiled, and said, " We have just 
missed having a gala lunch. What do you think ? 
They delivered a chicken here by mistake ; some 
confusion in the name, no doubt. Of course I sent 
it back. The lady who ordered it will have a better 
meal than we shall, eh, my poor overgrown girl ? " 

" Pooh ! " I answered, " she has probably got 
toothache ! " 

My mother rose as I spoke, and we went into the 
dining-room, where the surprise was waiting for us. 

When she saw the chicken lying on the table my 
mother began to laugh, and for five whole minutes 
we were speechless with merriment. She laughed, 
and I laughed ; she embraced me, and I embraced 
her ; it was a moving scene ! 

Then I told her of my bold move. 



Mais, dit ma mere, nous n'aurons pas d'argent 
avant un mois. J'espere que ce commergant est un brave 
homme qui saura attendre. . . . 

Mais oui ! mais oui ! dis-je a maman. En 
attendant, a table ! 

Et nous flmes ce jour Id un repas royal . . . qui 
nous remit un peu I'estomac. Helas ! nous avons 
paye cette petite orgie, par des insultes, que le gargon 
livreur hurlait regulierement chaque jour de onze heures 
d midi dans la cour de la maison ! Et tous les gens 
des six Stages etaient au courant de cette dette de cinq 

(^a se gave ! (^a mange des poulets ! 

^a fait comme les gens riches ! ^a se fait passer 
pour des ouvrieres et c'est des voleuses ! 

Enfin il fit pendant 14 jours tant de scandale que la 
concierge finit par avancer les 5 francs. . . . Ma mere 
et moi nous n'osions plus sortir . . . et nous rougissions 
en rencontrant les voisins dans les escaliers. 

Ah quel temps affreux ! 

Et c'est en souvenir des mauvais bouchers, des mauvais 
epiciers, des mauvais marchands de comestibles, que 
depuis que je suis artiste, j'ai donne une vraie fortune 
a tous ceux qui vinrent chez moi crier: Pitie, pitie, 
j'ai faim. Je me suis souvenue ! et j'ai donne, donne, 
trap peut-etre. 


" But," said she, " we shall not have the money 
to pay for it for at least a month. I hope the shop- 
man is a good fellow, and won't mind waiting." 

" Of course he won't mind ! " I cried. " In the 
meanwhile, let's enjoy the chicken ! " 

That day we made a right royal repast, which did 
us a power of good. But we had to pay for it, bitterly 
enough. Every morning after that, from eleven to 
twelve, the errand boy would stand in the courtyard 
below and hurl opprobrious epithets at our windows. 
Very soon everyone in the building knew about the 
wretched five francs we owed for the chicken. 

" Gluttons ! Eat chickens, would you ? A fine 
thing to be living like fighting cocks, and pretending 
to be poor work-people all the time ! A pack of 
thieves, that's what you are ! " 

At last, after about a fortnight of this sort of thing, 
the scandal became so great that the landlady eventu- 
ally lent us the five francs to settle the account. 
My mother and I for some time after that hardly 
dared venture out of doors ; and we were covered 
with confusion whenever we met any of our neighbours 
on the stairs. 

What a life ! 

These vivid memories of hard-hearted butchers, 
grocers, and tradesmen generally have led me during 
my artistic career to give away a fortune in response 
to the appeals of those who have cried, " Food, for 
pity's sake ! I am starving ! " 

I have remembered the old days, and given, given, 
given with a free, and probably far too liberal, hand. 


Mats un jour arriva . . . un jour voulu par le destin. 

Et de ce jour Id devait dependre toute ma vie future. . . . 

Un jour, que j' avals a sortir, je fus suivie dans la rue 

par un homme assez age. II commenga d'abord par me 

dire que j' avais une taille superbe . . . un corps elegant . . . . 

Ecoutez moi done, Mademoiselle . . . ne marchez pas si 
vite. . . . Mademoiselle, ecoutez moi done ! j'ai une pro- 
position a vous faire . . . une proposition tres honnete. 
. . . Je suis Zidler le directeur de I' Hippodrome. . . . 

J'etais si vite essoufflee, que je dus ralentir ma marche, 
je serais tombee ! 

II en profita pour bien regarder mon visage, car jusque- 
Id, il n' avail vu que mon dos. Mademoiselle, soyez calme 
et laissez-moi marcher tout doucement a vos cotes . . . 
je suis vieux et je ne peux pas courir. . . . 

Je ne repondais pas un mot. 

Voila, fit-il, je vous propose de vous donner des 
legons d' equitation et de faire de vous la plus belle 
ecuyere de Paris ! 

Du coup, j'eclatais de rire ! il continua : 

Ne riez pas . . . dans deux ans vous gagnerez 20,000 
francs par an. . . . 

Je dressais I'oreille. . . . Que faites-vous dans la vie ? 
ouvriere ? 

. . . Oui, Monsieur. . . . 

Eh bien ? (^a ne vous plairait pas d'etre ecuyere ? 

Ma mere ne consentira jamais. . . . 


But at last a day came, a day that was big with 
destiny for me, and altered the whole course of my 
life. One morning I had to go out, and was followed 
in the street by an oldish man. He began by telling 
me that I had a lovely figure and a most stylish 

" Listen to me, Mademoiselle, I beg," said he, 
" and don't walk so fast. I have a proposal to make 
to you, a perfectly genuine proposal. My name is 
Zidler ; I'm the Manager of the Hippodrome." 

I was so out of breath that I had to slow down 
or I should have fallen. He took advantage of this 
to take a long look at my face — up to then he had 
only seen my back ! 

" Mademoiselle," he went on, " don't be nervous, 
but let me walk beside you ; only don't go too fast. 
I'm an old man, and running is beyond me." 

I made no reply, and presently he spoke again. 

" Now I'm going to make you an offer. I propose 
to give you riding lessons, and I'll make you the 
finest horsewoman in Paris ! " 

AU at once I burst out laughing. 

" Don't laugh ! " said he. "In two years' time 
you shall be earning 20,000 francs a year." 

I pricked up my ears at this. 

" What do you do for a living — dressmaking ? " 
he asked. 

" Yes, sir." 

" Well, you wouldn't mind being a circus-rider, 
would you ? " 

" My mother would never consent," said I. 


J'irai la trouver, dit Zidler. 

Oh, non, laissez moi d'ahord lui parler. 

Alors il me remit 2 places pour venir avec maman 
a V Hippodrome lui apporter nos reponses. . . . 

Reflechissez, jeune fille, c'est la fortune pour vous. . . . 
Puis, comme il allait me quitter il me regarda des pieds 
a la tete : Quelle ecuyere ! Quelle magnifique ecuyere ! 

II me tendit si paternellement la main que je n'hesitais 
pas a lui donner la mienne, et c'est ainsi que je fis la con- 
naissance d'un des hommes les plus curieux, les plus 
intelligents de Paris, qui jusqu'd sa mort resta 
devoue, et bon conseilleur. 

Quand je racontais I'aventure d ma mere, elle se 
fdcha. C'est cela ! monte a cheval, casse-toi le cou, ou 
les jambes, et puis apres . . . ? 

Je lui dis que j'avais promis une reponse. . . . 

Eh bien, tu prieras Mile. Masson de t'accompagner 
d I' Hippodrome, moi je n'irai pas. 

Deux jours apres, notre coupeuse Mile. Masson et 
moi nous etions a l' Hippodrome. 

Zidler fut demande par moi, il accourut. 

Eh bien ? 

Maman ne veut pas ! 

Alors pendant que Mile. Masson regardait le spectacle, 
j'allais avec lui dans son bureau, et je lui racontais 
ma vie de travail, de luttes. Et voyez vous, monsieur. 


" m go and see her," returned Zidler. 

" Oh, no," I replied, " let me speak to her first." 

Then he gave me two seats for the Hippodrome. 
I was to bring my mother, and give him my answer. 

" Think it over, young lady," he said. " It's the 
chance of your lifetime." Then, just as he was 
going, he looked me up and down, murmuring, " What 
a rider she would make ! What a magnificent 
rider ! " 

He held out his hand in a paternal manner, and I 
had no hesitation in giving him mine. It was in this 
way that I made the acquaintance of one of the 
shrewdest and most singular men in Paris ; and to 
the day of his death he remained my most devoted 
friend and counsellor. 

When I told my mother the story she was terribly 

" Horse-riding ! " she exclaimed. " You'll break 
your neck, or your legs, and then where will you be ? " 

I told her that I had promised Zidler to give him 
an answer, 

" Well, you can take Mile. Masson with you to 
the Hippodrome ; I shall not go," said my mother. 

And two days afterwards Mile. Masson and I went. 

I asked for Zidler, and he came running up with a 
question on his lips. 

" Well ? " 

" My mother won't hear of it," said I. 

Then while Mile. Masson went in to see the show, 
I accompanied him to his office, and told him the 
story of my life, a life of struggle and hard work. 


changer de metier serait changer de miseres . . . Un 
accident pourrait me mettre pour des mois a Vhopital 
. . . alors . . . et ma mere ? . . . 

II m'ecoutait, . . . me regardait. . . . 

Pauvre petite femnie, finit-il par dire attendri, . . . 
eh Men, pour vous distraire je vous enverrai de temps 
en te^nps des places de theatre. J'en regois de partout. 

Et je quittais le brave Zidler sur cette promesse. 

Deux mois apres je regus deux fauteuils pour alter 
entendre Sarah Bernhardt au theatre de la Porte Saint- 
Martin. J'etais folic de joie ! jamais je n'avais vu 
la magnifique artiste. Ce fut encore Mile. Masson qui 
vint avec moi, ma mere etant souffrante. 

A peine assises dans le theatre, qu'un monsieur 
vint occuper le strapontin a cote de mon fauteuil. C'etait 
un voisin comme un autre. On leva le rideau . . . 
On jouait Cleopatre . . . j'attendais Sarah Bernhardt 
nerveuse, agitee. . . . Enfin unc belle jeune femme 
splendidement vetue entra. . . . C'etait Cleopatre! 

J'ecoutais . . . je regard ais . . . je ne per dais rien 
de ses gestes, de sa voix, et quand I'acte fut fini, je restais 
un peu desappointee . . . J'en faisais la reflexion a Mile. 
Masson, qui elle aussi n'etait pas enthousiasmee, quand 
le monsieur du strapontin qui s'amusait follement de 
710S critiques, nous informa, que Sarah Bernhardt 


" To change my profession, you see, would only 
mean exchanging one form of unhappiness for another," 
I said to him. " I might meet with an accident 
which would lay me up in hospital for months, and 
then what would become of my mother ? " 

He looked at me hard while he listened. 

" Poor little woman," he said eventually, in com- 
passionate tones. " Well, we'll say no more. But 
you need amusement ; I'll send you theatre tickets 
from time to time ; I get plenty of them." 

And with this promise we parted. 

About two months afterwards I received two 
stalls for the Porte Saint Martin Theatre, where 
Sarah Bernhardt was playing. I was wild with joy, 
as I had never seen this wonderful actress. Mile. 
Masson was again my companion, as my mother 
was ill. 

We had hardly taken our places when a gentle- 
man came and sat down on the gangway seat next 
to my stall. The curtain went up. The play was 
" Cleopatra," and I waited for Sarah Bernhardt's 
entrance in a state of nervous excitement. At last 
a handsome young woman came on, superbly clad — it 
was Cleopatra. I listened — I watched — I lost not a 
single one of her gestures, or of the intonations of her 
voice. But when the act was over I was left with a 
distinct feeling of disappointment. I said as much 
to Mile, Masson. She, also, was not wildly enthusiastic. 
Then the gentleman next to me, who was evidently 
highly amused at our criticisms, informed us that 
Sarah Bernhardt was not playing. She had been taken 


ne jouait pas ce soir, et quelle avail He reniplacie, 
ayant ete indisposee en arrivant au theatre ! 

Je suis critique dramatique . . . et it me tendit sa carte : 

Edmond Stoullig, 
Critique dramatique. 

Evidemment, dis-je, vous devez bien connaitre Sarah 
Bernhardt. . . . 

II sour it. . . . 

Vous ne la trouvez pas bien, la remplagante .^ fit-il 


Pourquoi ? 

Elle parle mal, et ne souffre pas avec verite . . . {d 
mon avis,) ajoutai-je tout a coup honteuse d'avoir ete 
si affirmative. 

II fut interesse toute la soiree a ce que je lui disais, 
href tout a coup il s'ecria : Mais faites done du theatre. 
Mademoiselle, intelligente comme vous I'etes, vous etes 
certaine de reussir ! 

Et pendant tout I'entr'acte il m'assura qu'il fallait 
" faire du theatre." 

Tenez, je vais vous donner un mot pour un professeur 
admirable, et sur sa carte il ecrivit : 

Landrol loi rue Laffayette. Je lui ecrirai, ajouta-t-il. 


ill on reaching the theatre, and her understudy was 
playing the part. 

" I am a dramatic critic," he added, and offered 
me his card, on which was inscribed, 

Edmond Stoullig, 

Dramatic Critic. 

" Evidently," said I, " you know Sarah Bernhardt 
very well." 

He smiled. 

" You don't think much of her understudy ? " he 
asked, in a bantering voice. 

" No ! " 

" Why not ? " 

" She says her words badly, and her emotion 
doesn't ring true — at least that's what I think," 
I added, suddenly overcome with confusion at having 
spoken so positively. 

He remained interested all the evening in what I 
said, till suddenly he turned to me and exclaimed : 

" Why don't you go on the stage. Mademoiselle ? 
So intelligent a person as yourself is bound to 
succeed ! " 

All through th'C interval he kept assuring me that 
I ought to go on the stage. 

" See here," he said. " I'll give you an intro- 
duction to an excellent teacher," and handed me a 
card on which he had written, " Landrol, loi, Rue 

"I'll write to him myself," he added. 

That evening was the beginning of the long and 


Et c'est de ce jour la que date la vieille et fidele amitie 
de Stoullig pour sa " filleule " Yvette. 

En rentrant, je racontais I'aventure a ma mere. . . . 

Elle m'ecouta, et d ma grande surprise elle me dit : 
Essaie ! 

Ah f dis-je, si j'avais seulement plus de voix,j'aurais 
tente le genre Judic ou Chaumont . . . mais avec 
mon filet de voix, impossible . . . ! Bref les reves 
commencerent . . . j'ecrivis a Zidler lui racontant mes 
nouvelles decisions, il me repondit que mourir de faim 
pour mourir de faim [car je gagnerai peu de chose a 
mes debuts) il valait mieux mourir de faim en gaiete ! ! 

Je pris des legons avec Landrol, au bout de huit mois 
il m'envoya comme tous ses Sieves, debuter au theatre 
des Bouffes du Nord ! ! {dans un faubourg de Paris) . 
Ce fut dans un drame d' Alexandre Dumas . . . La 
Reine Margot. 

Le role de Madame de Nevers me fut confie. 

Comme il me fallait quelques argents pour acheter 
des Soulier s, des gants, ce fut au brave ami Zidler ^ 
que j'ecrivis. 

Reponse : Un beau billet de cent francs ! . . . Et je 
debutai ! 

Jamais je n'oublierai ma premiere soiree . . . mon emo- 
tion . . . ma peur de commencer, ma joie de finir I'acte ! 


unswerving friendship that Stoullig ever afterwards 
entertained for his little " godchild " Yvette. 

When I got home I told my mother about it. She 
listened to my story, and then, to my great astonish- 
ment, she said, 

" Try it ! " 

" Ah ! " I said regretfully, " if only I had more 
of a voice ! I might have gone in for singing 
after the style of Judic or Chaumont. But with 
my tiny little pipe of a voice it's out of the 

Still from that time I began to dream of success on 
the stage. I wrote to Zidler, telling him of my new 
determination. He replied that if I was determined 
to die of starvation — since my first engagements 
would not be likely to bring in much — I might just 
as well die gaily ! ! 

I had a few lessons with Landrol, and then after 
eight months he sent me, as he did with all his pupils, 
to make my stage debut at the Bouffes du Nord, 
a theatre on the outskirts of Paris. The piece was 
one of Alexandre Dumas', " La Reine Margot," and 
the part entrusted to me was that of Madame de 

I needed money to buy shoes and gloves, so I again 
wrote to my worthy friend Zidler, His reply came 
in the shape of a hundred franc note ! And so I 
made my debut. 

I shall never forget that first night, or the emotions 
I went through. The fright I was in before it began ! 
The relief I felt when it was over ! 


Je traversais la scene en quatre pas ! Je marchais 
comme un soldat ! et quand des episodes comiques 
faisaient rire le public, je ne pensais plus a mon per- 
sonnage, a mon role, je riais avec lui ! ! 

Mais ce public de faubourg qui n'avait jamais dans 
ce theatre que des apprentis, ne se chagrinait pas de tout 
cela. . . . On jouait, il s'amusait et voild tout. 

C'etait en 1888. Je jouais la cinq ou six pieces, et 
des comediens ayant eu la gentillesse de me recommander 
a un usurier qui pretait des petites pieces d'or aux 
petits artistes pauvres j'avais un peu d'argent en 

Puis un soir le directeur du theatre Cluny [quartier 
Latin) vint me demander de remplacer au pied leve 
son etoile " Aciana " tombee malade. 

J'acceptais et fis un mois de representations a Cluny. 

Puis, enfin, j'osais itie presenter apres 6 mois sur 
un vrai theatre, un theatre " des Grands Boulevards." 
La les succes ne furent pas aussi faciles. . . . Grace 
d, mes amis Stoullig et Zidler, le pere Brasseur, directeur 
du theatre des Nouveautes, me fit passer une audition . . . 
plus de grands roles la . . . des levers de rideaux ! ! 
Mais ma vanite etait si satisfaite de faire partie d'une 
troupe des " Grands Boulevards " ! 


I covered the stage in four strides, with a fine 
martial walk. And when the audience laughed at 
the funny situations, I forgot all about my part and 
the character I was supposed to be playing, and 
laughed with them ! 

But the audience at this theatre was quite used to 
novices, and didn't care twopence for anything like 
that. So long as the play went on, and they were 
amused, nothing else mattered. 

This was in 1888. I played in about five or six 
pieces at this theatre. Some of the actors were good 
enough to give me an introduction to a money-lender, 
who made a practice of lending money to the smaller 
fry of the dramatic profession, so I had a certain 
amount of cash in my pocket. 

Then one evening the manager of the Cluny Theatre 
in the Quartier Latin asked me to take the place at 
a moment's notice of his star, " Aciana," who had 
been taken ill. 

I accepted his offer, and played for a month at 

Then at last, after six months of the stage, I plucked 
up courage to apply for a part at a real theatre, a 
theatre on the Boulevards. There success was not so 
easy. Thanks to the exertions of my friends Stoullig 
and Zidler, the elder Brasseur, who was manager of 
the Nouveautes, gave me an audition. There were 
to be no big parts for me here ! I was to play in 
curtain-raisers only. However, I was quite satisfied 
to feel that I was to be one of the company at a real 
theatre on the Boulevards, 


Petite bete que j'etais ! Pour jouer " les roles " 
il fallait des toilettes et ou les prendre . . . ? Je gagnais 
aux " Nouveautes "250 francs par mois. . . . 

Je pris la resolution d'aller trouver une maison 
de couture et de la prier de me faire credit tout le 
temps qu'il me faudrait pour " arriver a une situation." 
Ce fut la maison Ohnet, rue du 4 Septemhre, qui eut 
confiance en moi. 

Je dis a Madame Ohnet que favais ete dans 
la couture chez Hentenart, puis au Printemps, et 
qu'enfin lasse de vegeter avec ma mere, j'essayais de 
faire du theatre. . . . Je lui donnais ma parole d'honnete 
fllle que je la rembourserais sitot que je toucherais 
des appointements serieux. Elle accepta ! J'etais 

Eh bien non . . . je n'etais pas sauvee, car lorsque 
je previns mon directeur que j'etais en mesure de bien 
m'habiller il me ripondit : 

Mais tu es dans un theatre tres comique ici, et tu 
es triste a pleurer, jamais je ne pourrai t' employer, 
tu as une figure pour jouer les tragiques, tu ne sauras 
jamais rire, ma pauvre Yvette, tu n'as pas d' expression ! 

Ah cette phrase! ce qu'elle me fut dite souvent. . . . 

Mais je vous assure. Monsieur Brasscur, que j'ai 
un genre comique a moi. . . . Confiez moi un role, vous 
verrez. . . . Voulez vous, tenez, que je vous chante une 
chanson drole ? 


Little fool that I was ! How could I play the parts 
without suitable frocks ; and where was I going to 
get frocks from, since at the Nouveautes I was only to 
be paid 250 francs a month ? 

At last I made up my mind to approach a dress- 
maker and ask her to give me credit until such time 
as I should " arrive " ! So I went to Ohnet's in the 
rue du 4 Septembre, and they seemed willing to trust 

I told Madame Ohnet that I had once been an 
assistant at Hentenart's and afterwards at the Prin- 
temps, and that, weary at last of vegetating at home, 
I was tempting fortune on the stage, I gave her my 
word of honour that I would repay her as soon as I 
got a proper engagement. She agreed to wait, and 
I felt I was saved ! 

And yet not saved ! For when I told my manager 
that I was being measured for some new clothes, he 
remarked : 

" Yes, but this is a comedy theatre ; and you're 
such a melancholy-looking person. I shall never be 
able to give you a part here ; you've got the face 
of a ' tragedienne.' You'll never learn how to laugh, 
my poor Yvette ; you're absolutely lacking in ex- 

Oh, that phrase, " lacking in expression ! " How 
often have I not been told that ! 

" But, I assure you, M. Brasseur," said I, " I have 
the comedy instinct all right. Give me a part, you 
shall see for yourself. Won't you let me sing you a 
comic song ? " 



Non, non, fiche moi la paix, tu es une iriste. . . . Va 
a I'Odeon, au Gymnase, ici tu ne feras jamais rien, 
Hen, Hen. 

J'etais desolee, desolee . . . on ne me retint pas le 
jour ou je fis savoir que le theatre des Varietes voulait 
m' engager . . . Brasseur dechira mon contrat et je 
partis aux Varietes. 

La j'avais aussi 250 francs par mois, mats de bons 
petits roles m'etaient donnes. Je savais que, en ma qualite 
de debutante, il me fallait etre patiente . . . je I'etais, 
car j'avais des exemples de comediennes bien connues 
qui a cette epoque gagnaient 1000 francs par mois ! 

Aux Varietes, j'avais de superbes logons gratuites, 
je n'avais qua regarder jouer la fameuse troupe — c'etait 
le temps de Judic, Rejane, Dupuis, Baron, Christian, 
Lassouche, toutes les celebrites de I' epoque. Chaque re- 
petition m'apprenait des quantites de choses, et cest en 
les voyant " travailler " I' art dramatique que moi, 
j'appris a chanter ! Ce sont cux qui influencerent 
" ma maniere," car plus tard quand feus a apprendre 
une chanson je m'appliquais " a la jouer." 

Cest aux Varietes que j'appris tous les trues, toutes 
les ficelles des actrices, des acteurs, des directeurs, des 
auieurs, et je me disais : Mais pour faire son chemin 
dans ce metier-la, a Paris, il faut plus que de la diplomatic. 
Saurai-je m'en tirer ? 


" No, no," said he, " it's no use your worrying me ; 
you were made for tragedy, I tell you. Go to the 
Odeon or the Gymnase. Here you'll never be any good, 
never any good at all." 

I was absolutely heart-broken. As soon as I told 
him that the Varietes had made me an offer Brasseur 
tore up my contract and packed me off. 

At the Varietes I was getting only 250 francs also ; 
but they gave me some nice little parts. I knew 
that, as a beginner, I had to be patient. And I was, 
keeping before my mind the fact that there were 
several actresses I knew of who were making at that 
time 1000 francs a month. 

At the Varietes I received some fine lessons in the 
art of acting. All I had to do was to watch that 
splendid company act — it was the time of Judic, 
Rejane, Dupuis, Baron, Christian, Lassouche — all 
the stars of the day, in fact. Every performance 
taught me a great deal, and it was by seeing the 
way in which they handled the dramatic art that I 
learnt how to sing ! Their influence left an indelible 
mark on my " style " ; and, in later years, when I 
had a new song to learn, I used to devote myself first 
to learning how to " act " it. 

While at the Varietes I got to know all the " dodges " 
and stage tricks of actors and actresses, of managers 
and authors. Over and over again I said to myself 
that something more than mere diplomacy was 
required in order to make any headway in a profes- 
sion like this, in Paris especially, and found myself 
wondering whether I should ever pull through. 


Un jour on me donne un role delicieux dans une 
piece de Millaud. Judic etait I'etoile de ses pieces, elle 
etait charmante camarade avec les " Petits " — et je 
lui dis combien j'etais contente de mon role. Deux jours 
apres, helas, mon role m' etait retire, et une splendide fllle, 
demi-actrice, demi-courtisane, en devenait titulaire. . . . 

Pourquoi ? Elle etait la maitresse d'un des plus gros 
actionnaires du theatre. . . . 

J'allais toute en larmes trouver le directeur Bertrand 
qui tres calme me dit : 

Mon enfant, ce sont des obligations auxquelles un 
theatre ne peut echapper. . . . Vous en verrez bien 
d'autres, allez ! II nous faut compter avec tant de 
gens. . . . Croyez-vous que cela m'amuse d'engager 
cette femme, elle ne sail ni parler ni marcher en scene 
. . . mais au theatre, personne, vous entendez, ne peut se 
dire libre, nous sommes tous esclaves de tous. 

Mais alors, dis-je, c'est une carriere qui peut vous 
decourager toute la vie ! Mais c'est affreux ! Quand 
on n'est pas l^toile, comment faire pour imposer sa 
personnalite ? 

Le devenir ! repondit Bertrand, sans cela on vegete 
10 ans, 15 ans. . . . 

Je sortis du cabinet directorial le coeur glace. . . . 
Decidement je n'avancerai a rien, qu'apres de longues 


One day I was given a lovely new frock to wear in 
a play of Millaud's. Judic was always the star in his 
pieces, and very charming she was to all of us who 
were playing minor parts. I had told her how pleased 
I was with my part ; but two days afterwards it was 
taken away from me and given to a good-looking girl 
who was little more than an amateur. And the reason? 
Oh, well, she was the " friend " of one of the most 
influential directors of the theatre ! 

I went to Bertrand, the manager, in tears. He 
replied calmly, 

" My dear child, these are the sort of obligations 
which a manager cannot hope to escape. You will 
see plenty of similar cases before you have done. 
There are so many people who have to be taken into 
consideration. Do you think it amuses me to engage 
a woman who can't speak her lines properly, and 
hardly knows how to walk across the stage ? But in 
theatrical matters, you must understand, we are not 
our own masters. Everybody is the slave of some- 
body else." 

" Then," said I, "it seems to me that it is a most 
disheartening profession. It's terrible to think of. 
How, unless one is a star, is it possible to get a 
hearing ? " 

" Become one," replied Bertrand. " Otherwise 
you'll simply remain where you are for another ten 
or fifteen years." 

I left his office with a feeling of icy despair. It 
was evident that I might work for years at this pro- 
fession, and never get a step further than I was then. 


annees dans ce metier. . . . Et puis cette atmosphere 
louche d'intrigues. . . . II fallait etre hien avec Mile. X. 
parce que son amant etait redacteur a tel journal . . . 
et sur un signe d'elle, il vous ereintait ou vous couvrait 
de louanges. . . . II fallait ne pas deplaire au comedien 
Y. parce que sa petite amie jouait dans la piece et qu'il 
voulait qu'elle scule des petits roles, fut remarquee. . . . 
II fallait avoir des robes nouvelles a chaque piece ! 
Et feus la tres mauvaise chance de tomber sur quatre 
fours consecutifs ! Quatre pieces furent jouees sans 
aucun succes, la fin de la saison fut desastreuse, il y avail 
une piece, La Japonaise, qui ne fut jouee que quelques 
jours, et ma note montait toujours chez ma coutiiriere. 
Je lui devais plus de 6000 francs et je per dais la tete 
a I'idee de cette dette de confiance. . . . 

Quand arriverai-je a gagner de reels appointements, 
dis-je a Zidler. . . . Dans dix ou quinze ans, me dit-il, 
— a Paris les carrieres des femmes sont tres lentes . , . 
aies du courage, ma petite . . . c'est une vertu, le courage 
mais au theatre une vertu n'a jamais valu deux bons 
vices. . . . II y avail longtemps que je m'en etais 
apergue ! 

A mes debuts aux Bouffes du Nord, je m' etais donne 
deux ans pour " arriver ! " j'ignorais tout du theatre, 
moi, et je croyais qu'il suffisait d'avoir en soi un 


Moreover, this unhealthy atmosphere, heavy with 
intrigue, disgusted me. You had to keep on good 
terms with Madame X., because the editor of such 
and such a paper was a particular friend of hers. She 
had only to say the word and he would slate you 
or praise you. You mustn't fall out with the 
comedian Y. because his little lady friend had a part, 
and he didn't want any of the other minor parts 
to overshadow her. 

Added to all this one had to have new frocks for 
each new play, and I had the misfortune to appear 
in four successive failures ! Not one of the four had 
the slightest success ; the latter part of the season 
was disastrous, and one piece, " La Japonaise," only 
ran for a few nights. And all the time my bill 
at the dressmaker's was steadily mounting up ! I 
owed her over 6000 francs, and I was nearly off my 
head at the thought of this debt of honour, as I 
considered it. 

" When am I going to get a proper engagement ? " 
I said to Zidler. 

" Oh, in about ten or fifteen years' time," he 
answered. " In Paris a woman's career is a very 
slow achievement. But keep up your courage, my 
dear ; courage is a virtue, though in the theatre 
one virtue isn't half so useful as two good vices ! " 

I had found that out for myself some time ago. 
When I first appeared at the Bouffes du Nord, I had 
given myself two years in which to " arrive." I knew 
nothing about the stage, and I imagined that so long 
as one had good " stuff " in one, it would be an easy 


bon materiel pour devenir ime artiste et gagner sa 
vie ! 

Quelle blague ! C'etait " le hazard " a Paris, la chance 
plus que le reste qui faisait les departs des belles carrieres. 
II fallait aider ce hazard, cette chance . . . et je me 
mis a y penser. ... 

Des mois, et des mois se passerent, et les deux ans 
que j'avais fixe allaient bie?it6t etre accomplis quand 
vint la ferjueture annuelle des Varietes. L'Ete je 
partis en tournee avec Monsieur Baron et sa troupe. 

Baron etait avec Dupuis la grosse vedette masculine 
des Varietes. 

II aitnait beaticoup mon caractere paisible et toujours 
egal, il savait que jamais je n'avais de disputes avec 
personne, et sa sympathie m'avait par deux fois fait 
distribue des petits roles gentils. La tournee partait 
avec une piece de Meilhac et Halevy : Decore. 

J'y avais un role charmant, de plus je jouais pour 
commencer le spectacle un petit acte tout a fait exquis, 
" La Sarabande " du nieme auteiir. 

Meilhac vint un jour nous voir repeter, et s'approchant 
de moi, il me dit : Mais c'est tout a fait bien, ma grande 
fille ! 

Et ma foi, dans toutes les villes oii la tournee passa, 
mon petit acte dans lequel je tenais le role principal 
eut un gros succes ! Ah ! que j'etais contente. . . . 

Dajis cette troupe d'Ete etait un comedien de grand 
talent, ancien pensionnaire de la Comedie Frangaise. 


matter to become a great actress and make a decent 

But that's all humbug ! It is just a matter of luck 
in Paris, luck more than anything else which lays the 
foundations of a successful career. What one had 
to do was to try to assist this element of luck, of 
chance ; and I set my mind to the problem. 

Month after month went by, and the allotted two 
years had nearly gone. The annual closing of the 
Varietes in the summer sent me on tour with Baron's 

Baron was, together with Dupuis, the chief star 
at the Varietes. 

He liked me for my quiet and equable disposition, 
and for the fact that I never quarrelled with anyone. 
Twice already his goodwill had secured me nice 
minor parts. The touring company was sent out 
with a play called " Decore," written by Meilhac and 

I had a charming part in this, and I also played 
in the first piece, an exquisite little play called " La 
Sarabande," by the same authors. 

Meilhac was present at rehearsal one day. He 
came up to me afterwards and said, " You play it 
splendidly, my dear girl." 

And I must say that in every town we visited, the 
little curtain-raiser, in which I played the principal 
part, had a great reception. Ah, how pleased I was ! 

In this touring company there was a very clever 
comedian, Barral, who had been at the Comedie 
Fran9aise in his younger days. He was always merry. 


// etait fort gai, et chantait I'operette avec heaucoup 
d'esprit et dans les chemins de fer nous chantions 
toujours, lui et mot, pour amuser nos camarades. 

Comme toutes les filles de Paris je savais des centaines 
de chansons, et Barral tres enthousiaste me hurlait dans 
les oreilles : Mais Idche done le theatre, grande bete ! 
Au cafe concert tu vas gagner demain ce que tu gagneras 
seulement dans dix ans au theatre ! 

Tu n'as pas assez de voix pour I'operette pour le 
moment, mais pour la chanson c'est suffisant. Qu'est 
ce que tu gagnes aux Varietes ? 

Deux cent cinquante francs. . . . 

Je te parie, que tu debutes a I'Eldorado avec . . . avec 
600 francs ! 

Je I'ecoutais tres troublee . . . 600 francs . . . ! Pas 
de frais de toilettes comparables a ceux du theatre . . . 
c etait une idee apres tout . . . et heureuse, confiante, 
je lui racontais que toute mon enfance j'avais eu des 
succes de petit prodige chanteur — on me couvrait 
de gateaux dans les families amies de la mienne 
pour me faire chanter . . . j'imitais la grande Theresa ! 
Je m'attachais des serviettes a la taille, pour faire une 
robe a traine, et j'imitais la belle artiste ! J'adorais 
chanter mais vers 15 ans ma voix devint mince par les 
privations de toutes sortes et si elle avail du charme 
elle etait bien bien menue. . . . Et petit a petit des souvenirs 


(Fioin a pastel by Benncwitz von Locfcn.) 


and was for ever humming snatches out of some 
opera or other. We used to sing on the railway 
journeys, he and I, to amuse the others. 

Like all other girls who had been brought up in 
Paris, I knew hundreds of songs, and Barral was very 
enthusiastic about my singing. 

" Why don't you leave the theatre, you great silly," 
he would bawl in my ear, " and try the Cafe Concert ? 
You'd make in one day what it would take you ten 
years to earn on the stage. You haven't enough voice 
for opera yet, but you could sing songs all right. 
What do you earn at the Varietes." 

" Two hundred and fifty francs," I told him. 

" Well," said he, " I'll wager you wUl get six hundred 
francs for your first engagement." 

I listened to him with some misgivings. Six 
hundred francs, and hardly any outlay for clothes 
compared with what was wanted for the theatre ! 
There was certainly something in the idea. Then, 
with a sudden feeling of happy confidence, I told him 
how as a child I had always made a great sensation 
by my singing — " infant prodigy " they had called 
me. Our neighbours would often load me with sweets 
in order to get me to sing. I used to imitate the 
great Theresa ! With a towel pinned to my dress, 
to represent a train, I would give imitations of that 
fine artist. I used to love singing, but when I was 
about fifteen my voice became very weak owing to 
the privations we had been through, and there was 
very little, if any, charm about it left. Gradually 
the memories of my childhood came back to me. 


me revenaient. . . . C'etait a Chelles sur la Marne aux 
environs de Paris . . . un soir, j'avais lo ans, je chantais 
assise sur I'herbe au bord de I'eau entre mon pere et ma 
mere quand, petit a petit, des villas sortirent des gens qui 
tout a coup applaudirent. Puis, une autre fois, revenue 
a Chelles chez des amis, il me fallut rechanter au clair 
de lune pour la joie des petits voisins . . . / 

Puis, une autre fois, que je chantais en plein air 
encore, un monsieur s'ecria : Bravo ! mais ma petite 
fille, continuez, c'est charmant, et je m'y connais, 
vous savez. . . . Je suis Monsieur Fugere de I'Opera 
Comique ! 

Fugere ! Un si grand artiste me complimentant, 
j'en avais le cceur houleverse ! 

Bref, en ecoutant les conseils de mon camarade Barral, 
et les affirmations de toute la troupe qui faisait chorus 
avec lui, de noiiveaux reves germerent en moi. . . . 
Qui sait ? J'aurais peut-etre plus de chance. . . . Je ne 
demandais pas la gloire, seigneur ! Mais des appointe- 
ments possibles pour payer mes dettes et suffire aux 
besoins de ma mere, et aux miens. . . . Une independance 
Propre, quoi ! 

La tournee se termina fin d'aout 1889. 

C'etait par un jour de septembre . . . un soleil mag- 
nifique inondait Paris — je me dis qu'une telle glorieuse 
journee devait me porter bonheur — j'allais done me 
presenter a l' Eldorado, le grand " Concert de Paris." . . . 


I remembered how one evening at Chelles, on the 
banks of the Marne, outside Paris, when I was about 
ten years old, I was sitting on the grassy bank between 
my father and mother, and singing to myself. Gradu- 
ally people crept out of the houses round, and all at 
once they began to applaud. And some time after- 
wards, when I was at Chelles again, staying with some 
friends, I was once more made to sing in the moonlight 
for the benefit of the neighbours ! 

Then another time when I was singing out of doors, 
a gentleman suddenly cried " Bravo ! my little girl ! 
Go on singing, it's quite charming. And I know 
something of singing, I can tell you. My name's 
Fugere of the Opera Comique ! " 

Fugere ! To be complimented by a great singer 
like that ! I felt quite overcome at the thought ! 

At last, as I listened to the advice of Barral and 
the rest of the company, who were all of his opinion, 
I began to have other dreams. Who could tell ? 
Perhaps I should have more luck in this new profession. 
Heaven knows, I had long ago given up all idea of 
fame. But the thought of earning a salary which 
would enable me to pay my debts, and keep my 
mother and myself in comfort, was very attractive. 
Then I should indeed be independent ! 

The tour ended in August 1889. 

It was a lovely September day, when all Paris was 
flooded with sunshine — such a day ought to bring 
me luck, I told myself — that I made my way to the 
Eldorado, the great Concert Hall of Paris. 


La directrice me fit auditionner. Je lui chantais un 
air du "Gamin de Paris," operette creee par Jeanne 

Elle m'ecouta, la directrice . . . fit la moue et se mit 
a parler has avec deux hommes noirs, deux jumeaux 
celehres d Paris, deux chanteurs de salons remarquables : 
Les freres Lionnet. 

Je les voyais gesticuler, la persuader . . . elle hochait 
la tete . . . et haussait les epaules, et je I'entendis qui 
disait : Eh bien vous verrez, je vais I' engager . . . mais 
elle ne fera rien, rien . . . die n'a pas d' expression ! 

Pardon, repliquaicnt les freres Lionnet, elle chante 
en bonne comedienne, comme on doit chanter . . . elle 
manque d'habitude mais vous verrez, vous verrez. . . . 

Bref d'une voix molle, et comme d, contre cceur, la 
grosse dame m'offrit un contrat de trois ans. Je 
parlais plus d'une hetire pour obtenir " mes " 600 francs 
la premiere annee — 700 la seconde, 800 par mois la 

Travaillez, ma petite, me dirent les freres Lionnet, 
iravaillez et vous ferez une gentille diseuse. . . . 

Je devais debuter en novembre et d'ici Id il me fallait 
bien apprendre des chansons de " Cafe Concert ! " 

Je courus aux Varietes et obtins la resiliation de 
mon traite, mon directeur qui savait mes luttes ne 


The manageress gave me an audition. I sang her 
a song out of the " Gamin de Paris," an opera com- 
posed by Jeanne Granier. 

She listened attentively, pursed her lips a little, 
and then began to talk in a low tone to two black 
men who were in the room. These men were twins, 
two clever singers well known in Paris, the brothers 

I saw them gesticulating ; evidently they were 
trying to persuade her to engage me. She shook her 
head, shrugged her shoulders, and then I heard her say, 

" Oh, very well, I'll engage her, but you'll see, she'U 
be no good, no good at all. She hasn't a spark of 
expression ! " 

" On the contrary," they replied, " she sings a 
song as it should be sung ; all she lacks is experience. 
Just wait and see ! " 

Finally, in a nerveless voice, and apparently very 
reluctantly, the manageress offered me a three years' 
engagement. After about an hour's discussion I 
succeeded in getting the terms I wanted — 600 francs 
a month for the first year, 700 for the second, and 800 
a month for the third. 

" Work hard, my dear," the brothers Lionnet said 
to me, " and you'll make a very fine singer." 

My engagement was to start in November, and in 
the interval I had to learn the style of song in vogue 
at the Cafe Concerts. 

I rushed off to the Varietes to get my contract 
there cancelled. My manager, who knew something 
of my struggles, raised no objection. He congratu- 


me fit aucune difficuUe — il me felicita de gagner 600 
francs. . . . 

Le tout est de reussir, me dit-il, vous avez done de la 
voix, Yvette ? Bonne chance ! 

II me fallait trouver des chansons pour debuter en 
novembre — j'avais deux grands mois devant moi. . . . 
Avanttoute chose je voulais connaitre un peu I' atmosphere, 
V esprit de ces " cafes concerts " ou jamais je n'allais, 
done pendant 15 jours tous les soirs j'allais partout 
pour me documenter. Dans les plus grands, comme dans 
les plus petits, je constatais la betise atroce des couplets ! 
cetait idiot tout cela ! ! idiot ! ! ! Et pourtant le public 
etait ravi, et s'amusait sincerement . . . j'avais le cceur 
serre d I' idee qu'il me faudrait amuser une telle foule . . . 
tout d fait differente de celle du theatre des Varietes I 
Au bout de 15 jours mon plan etait trace, il s'agissait 
de trouver une note nouvelle . . . laquelle ? je ne savais 
pas . . . maiSy qui tout en etant plus artistique n'en eut 
pas I' air, . . . il ne fallait pas brusquer le gout, I' habitude 
surtout de ce genre de public, je n'esperais pas alors 
avoir un jour, " une clientele " a moi ! Je ne 
faisais pas de si grands reves. . . . Je desirais me creer 
" une personnalite " afin de gagner 7na vie plus 


lated me on having succeeded in getting an offer of 
600 francs a month. 

" The main thing," he said, " is to succeed. You've 
got a voice, then, Yvette ? Well, it's a piece of luck 
for you ! " 

I had to find some songs for my debut in November, 
and had two full months to do it in. First of all I 
was anxious to gain some knowledge of the general 
" atmosphere " of the Cafe Concerts. I had never 
been inside one in my life ; but for the next fortnight 
I went every night. I soon discovered that the words 
of the songs which were sung in these places of enter- 
tainment, the big ones as well as the small, were 
appallingly stupid — hopelessly idiotic they seemed 
to me. And yet the public were delighted with them, 
and seemed to find them highly amusing. I was 
horrified at the thought of having to entertain an 
audience like that, so totally different from what 
I was used to at the Varietes. However, by the end 
of the fortnight I had settled on my plan of action, 
which was to strike a new note of some kind. But 
what sort of note — that was the question ? The 
songs I knew were too artistic and altogether out of the 
" atmosphere." It would never do to run counter 
to the taste of my audience, especially this kind of 
audience, and I had no hopes at that stage of my 
career of ever possessing a following of my own. 
Such an idea was beyond my wildest dreams. But 
I was anxious to establish an " individuality," so as 
to give me a chance of commanding a respectable 


Depuis les deux annees fassees au theatre, il s'etait 
fait un beau changement dans mon instruction litteraire. 
J'avais heaucoup, heaucoup lu, et mon instinct pour 
les belles choses s'etait dlveloppS, je passais des heures 
dans les musees, je m'instruisais toute seule, avec per- 
severance et enthousiasme — mon cerveau avait de 
longues heures de reflexion devant ccrtaines pages de 
litterature, devant certaines tableaux, certaines sculptures. 
Je suivais toutes les Expositions d'art, je passais des 
journees au musee du Louvre. 

J'avais soif de beaute, une nouvelle dme etait nee 
en moi, je me decouvrais des curiosites, et des com- 
prehensions nouvelles. . . . Une artiste venait d'eclore . . . ! 
Dieu s'etait manifeste et allait me faire vivre une autre 
vie . . . c etait comme un eveil des choses longtemps 

Mais je savais tres bien qu'il me faudrait des annees 
de patience avant de trouver le noble emploi de tout 
ce que je sentais naitre et se developper en moi. Pour 
le present il ne f allait sortir rien de tout cela, il s'agissait 
de tdcher de creer une espece d'art nouveau, oui, quelque 
chose de neuf . . . de se faire " mi genre," d'etre d 
part dans ce milieu de chanteurs et de chanteuses qui 
se ressemblaient tous ! 

II f allait d'abord avoir une silhouette a soi ; ce qui 
me frappa c etait les coiffures vulgaires des chanteuses, 
leur exces de bijoux. Je decidais de venir en scene 
coiffee simplement, sagement, comme je me coiffais a 


During the two years I had been on the legitimate 
stage I had taken every opportunity of improving 
my education. I did a great deal of reading, which 
had the effect of developing my literary taste ; and 
I used to spend hours in museums and galleries. I 
educated myself — patiently, enthusiastically ; feeding 
my mind with long hours spent in reflection over 
certain books and pictures, and even sculptures. I 
went to all the Art Exhibitions, and spent a great 
deal of time in the gallery at the Louvre. 

I drank in every form of beauty greedily ; a new 
soul seemed to be born within me. I discovered new 
tastes, new interests ; it was the dawning of my 
artistic intelligence. God had revealed Himself, and 
was granting me a new lease of life. It was as though 
I had awoke from a long sleep. 

I knew well enough that I should need years of 
patient endeavour before I learnt how to use to the 
fuU those talents which I felt were being born in me. 
For the present I had to confine myself to certain 
limits, while trying to create a new form of art, some- 
thing really novel : to strike out a new line which 
should serve to distinguish me from the ordinary 
run of music-hall singer, every one of whom was just 
like every other. 

I determined, to begin with, to cultivate an in- 
dividuality of appearance. The vulgar " get-up " 
of the average " chanteuse," with her lavish display 
of jewelry, was very distasteful to me, and I decided 
that I would appear on the stage as simply dressed 
as possible, in ordinary everyday clothes, in fact ; and 


la vilte du reste, de ne jamais mettre aucun bijou {et 
pour cause !) sur mes corsages, ou a nies doigts, d'ailleurs 
etant obligee d'etre econome je choisirais des gants 
noirs . . . et une robe claire toute unie. Une sorte 
d'affiche . . . oui, une affiche aux lignes nettes, sim- 
plifiees, comme un " Primitif," voild ce que serait man 
personnage physique. 

Quant au repertoire, en cherchant, je finirais par le 
trouver. . . . Je ne pouvais pas compter sur les auteurs 
habituels des Etoiles ! J'avais vainement essaye de 
me faire faire des chansons par eux tous, tous refuserent, 
j'etais inconnue et ne meritais pas leurs graces . . . 
aucun d'eux ne voulait me confier 3 couplets ! lis 
se moquerent de moi, de ma fagon de chanter . . . et 
pourtant plus tard ce fut moi qui ne voulus plus les 
interpreter . 

Done pour 7nes debuts a V Eldorado je cherchais des 
couplets gais, comme me I' avail recommande la directrice 
de ce concert. J'arrivais chez un editeur, mon cher 
contrat en poche, pour avoir ma musique gratuitement, 
comme c'est I' usage, quand entra un monsieur. 

Ce monsieur etait le directeur du Casino de Lyon 
[music-hall) . 

Tout a coup, je I'entendis : qu'il est done difficile 
de trouver au mois d'aotd ou septembre une artiste 
d Paris, disait-il, elles sont toutes dans les villes d'eaux, 
et je ne sais qui trouver pour faire la reouverture de mon 


would never wear any jewelry (for the best of reasons !) 
on my clothes or person. For economy's sake I 
would adopt black gloves, and wear a light dress 
made all in one. The effect I was aiming at was 
that of a poster, a poster drawn in sharp clear lines, 
primeval in its simplicity. So much for my personal 

As for my repertoire, I should acquire one in time 
if I searched diligently enough. I should have to 
look elsewhere than to the usual authors who wrote 
the songs for popular stars. I had already tried to 
get them to write me songs, but in vain. They all 
refused ; I was quite a nonentity, and altogether 
beneath their notice ; there wasn't one who would 
trust me with a lyric of three verses. They made 
fun of me, and my way of singing. But later on it 
was they who offered me songs and I who refused to 
sing them ! 

The songs needed for my debut at the Eldorado 
had to be light and gay, as the manageress had warned 
me. I went to see a publisher, my precious contract 
in my pocket, to ask for some " free " copies of songs, 
as was the custom among professionals. While I was 
there a gentleman entered the shop. 

This gentleman happened to be the manager of 
the Casino de Lyon, a popular music-hall at Lyons. 
All at once I heard him speaking to the publisher. 

"It is terribly difficult," he was saying, " to pick 
up any artists in Paris for the months of August and 
September. They all go off to some watering-place 
or other, and I am at my wits' end how to fill the bill 


Casino. . . . Je cherche une demi-etoile pas chere . . . 
jolie . . . elegante, venant d'un hon concert de Paris, 
et aucun agent n'a cela sous la main en ce moment. 
En connaitriez vous une, Monsieur Benoit .^ dit-il a 
I'Editeur de musique. 

Ma foi non ! repondit Benoit. 

Pendant ce dialogue mon cceur hattait . . . si je me 
proposais ? Seulement voild, il avail dit : Une demi- 
etoile " jolie," et je me savais loin d'etre belle, alors . . . ? 
Tout de meme j'osais me lever et alter a cet homme. 

Monsieur, lui dis-je, j'entends que vous cherchez une 
artiste . . . je ne suis pas jolie . . . mais je sors " des 
Varietes " un grand theatre du Boulevard, de plus, void 
un contrat avec I' Eldorado, et je sortis mon contrat de ma 
poche. . . . 

L' Homme le lut, et voyant les appointements de 600 
francs par mois, en conclut que certainement j'etais 
une bonne chanteuse. 

Quel genre chantez vous, Mademoiselle, le comique, 
ou la Romance sentimentale ? 

Le comique, Monsieur. . . . 

Tres Men . . . je ne vous connais pas . . . mais 
j'ai cofifiance en vous . . . nous mettrons sur I'afflche : 





for the re-opening of the Casino. I want a ' lesser 
star ' of some kind, who won't ask too much money ; 
but she must be pretty, styUsh, and come from a 
decent Paris hall. Not a single agent has one on his 
books at the present moment. Do you happen to 
know anybody, M. Benoit ? " he added, addressing 
the music publisher. 

" I ? Heavens, no ! " answered M. Benoit. 

During this conversation I felt my heart beating 
violently. Did I dare to offer my services ? A 
" lesser star " he had said, and " pretty " into the 
bargain. I knew I was anything but that ! How- 
ever, I plucked up enough courage to speak to him. 

" Sir," said I, " I heard you say you were looking 
for an artist. I am not ' pretty,' but I have been 
playing at the Varietes, one of the Boulevard theatres, 
and I have, besides, a contract with the Eldorado." 

I took the contract out of my pocket. He read it, 
and seeing that I had an engagement at 600 francs 
a month, immediately concluded that I must be a 
fine singer. 

" What is your line. Mademoiselle ? " he asked, 
" humorous or sentimental ? " 

" Humorous," said I. 

" Well," said he, " I don't know you, but I believe 
in you somehow. We'll have you in big letters on 
the bills :— 





et il dessina de suite sur le dos d'une musigue de 
chanson le schema de son programme en m'attribuant 
" la Vedette," c'est d dire qu'il reservait aux leUres de 
mon nom une place speciale et de dimension superieure. 
Bref il me posait en etoile aux yeux du public de 
Lyon. . . . Pauvre homme ! 

II m'engagea pour dix jours, a raison de quarante 
francs par jour, voyages payes, bien entendu. J'etais 
aux anges, heureuse, heureuse, car cela me donnait 
I'occasion inesperee de m'essayer comme chanteuse 
a Lyon en province, avant mes debuts a Paris a l' Eldorado, 
et de cette fagon, me disais-je, tu sauras a quoi t'en 
tenir, et tu seras plus d' aplomb pour revenir ici. . . . 

J'appris 4 chansons comiques, qu'une chanteuse 
en vogue, Madame Demay, venait de creer a Paris avant 
de mourir — 07t ne les connaissait pas a Lyon, done 
je ne craignais pas la comparaison avec cette Madame 
Demay si aimee des Parisiens, et avec raison, car 
elle etait I' esprit meme du pave de Paris. 

J'arrivais a Lyon. Des immenses affiches an- 
nongaient I'ouverture du Casino avec une artiste 
" des Varietes " de Paris ! Je mourais de peur a 
I' idee de mes premiers essais de chanteuse . . . mais 
favais une belle confiance. . . . 

Le soir arriva . . . je vins en scene habillee superbe- 


And he straightway drew up a rough scheme of 
his programme on the back of a piece of music, with 
me as the star, giving my name a special place in big 
letters on the programme. He was, in fact, going 
to boom me as a star before the eyes of the public of 
Lyons. Poor fellow ! 

He offered me a ten days' engagement at a salary of 
40 francs a day, and all expenses paid, of course. I 
was in the seventh heaven. I should in this way get an 
opportunity of trying my talents as a singer in the 
provinces at Lyons before making my debut in Paris 
at the Eldorado, and thus — so, at least, I flattered 
myself — I should leam what line to take up, and gain 
a certain amount of self-confidence before I returned 
to Paris. 

I learnt four humorous songs, which a popular 
singer, Madame Demay, had just made the vogue 
in Paris before her death. They would be quite 
unknown in Lyons, so there was no fear of com- 
parisons being drawn between me and Madame 
Demay, who had been the idol of the Parisian public, 
and justly so, for her songs had caught the true spirit 
of the life of lower-class Paris. 

I arrived at Lyons. Huge posters announced that 
the re-opening of the Casino w^ould be signalised by 
the appearance of an artist from the Paris Varietes. 
I was in fear and trembling at the thought of making 
my first appearance as a singer ; but all the same I 
had a certain amount of quiet confidence about the 

The evening came. I went do\\Ti to the stage, clad 


ment d'une robe brodee de perles fines avec laquelle 
j' avals joue ma derniere comedie au theatre des Varietes, 
et je commengais d trembler, en entendant les applaudisse- 
ments fantastiques que le public [compose en partie 
d'etudiants) accordait a une enorme chanteuse qui 
depassait toutes les limites de la vulgarite, et dans 
ses gestes, et par sa voix, et par tout ce qu'elle debitait en 
hurlant une espece de musique rythmee si bruyante et 
si commune ! Les etudiants chantaient avec elle, et 
faisaient un tapage infernal ; chaque fois qu'elle sortait 
de scene, ils I'acclamaient ! ! 

Elle, suante, et haletante, sa grosse poitrine inondee, 
ses bras tout rouges par la chaleur, etait comme un 
gros homard, les yeux hors de la tete, avec, sur le front, 
une frange de cheveux noirs crepes comme du crin, 
jamais je n'ai pu me rappder de son nom, mais jamais 
je n'oublierai la tristesse infinie que ce soir la son 
image fit descendre dans mon coeur . . . j'etais ebahie, 
tres stupe fiee, et par elle, et par ce public. 

De la coulisse je me rendais compte de I'orgueil 
joyeux de la grosse dame qui evidemment etait au del, 
car ct la fin, elle dit en epongeant sa sueur : Bien vrai ! 
y en a pas beaucoup qui me degoteront ce soir ! ! Et 
ce jut vrai, personne n'eut ce soir la autant de succes 

Apres la grosse dame, vint un petit chanteur qui 
I'hiver, en pleine saison, chantait a I'Eldorado de Paris. 


in a superb gown embroidered with delicate pearls, 
which I had worn in the last piece I played at the 
Varietes. I began to tremble with apprehension when 
I heard the audience (largely composed of students) 
according a rapturous reception to an enormously fat 
comedienne, whose gestures, as well as her voice, were 
too hopelessly vulgar for words, as she bawled out 
her inane songs, which had a sort of rhythm and 
tune about them certainly, but of a very blatant 
and commonplace kind. The students took up the 
choruses, and raised an infernal racket generally ; 
every time she went off she was loudly recalled. 

Perspiring, panting, her fat body heaving with 
excitement, her arms red with the heat, she looked 
just like some great lobster. Her eyes were bulging 
out of her head ; on her forehead she wore a fringe 
of black hair, crimped stiff like a horse's mane. Never 
for the life of me have I been able to recall her name ; 
but I shall not easily forget the infinite sadness that 
descended on my soul at the sight of her. I was 
aghast — dumbfounded — both at her personality and 
the effect she had on the audience. 

From the wings I noted the fat lady's delight and 
pride at her reception. She was evidently overcome 
with joy. When her turn was over, she remarked, 
while mopping the perspiration from her face, " Well, 
there won't be many able to give me points this 
evening, I know." And she was quite right. No 
one that evening made half the success she did. 

Following the fat lady came a diminutive male 
singer, who sang, during the winter months, at the 


Je me rappelais avoir vu souvent son nom sur les 
affiches et programmes, il avail la specialite des chansons 
a refrains tyroliens, lui aussi etait venu pour faire 
Vouverturc du Casino dc Lyon et devait apres faire 
sa rentree a I'Eldorado. II s'appelait Wely, et etaii 
une etoile de demi grandeur des cafes concerts Parisiens. 

II entra en scene et chanta. II s'agissait d'unc 
dame qui etait jolie, et se deshahillait dans une cabine 
de bain, pendant qu'un indiscret la regardait par un 
petit trou de la porte de la dite cabine. C'etait d'une 
equivoque melee des troulalattou de la tyrolienne du 
chanteur, et accompagnee de gestes sans paroles qui ne 
laissaient aucun doute sur les beautes detaillees 
minutieusement de la Venus en maillot de bain. 
Le public en etait en extase. . . . 

// eut son succes habituel, ?nais en sortant de scene 
il murmura quelques epithetes malveillantes a I'adresse 
du public qui, disait-il, n'aimait reellement que les grosses 
ordures . . . comme celles debitees par la grosse chanteuse. 

Et ce fut mon tour . . . mon cceur se declencha . . . 
fentrais en scene, et " mon entree " seule me valui 
des ah ah, des oh oh, ironiques, quelqu'un cria : 

Oh lala ! Est elle maigre ! elle a tout laisse dans 
ses malles ! I ! 

Et pendant deux ou trois longues minutes, j'entendis 


Eldorado in Paris. I remembered having seen his name 
on the playbills and programmes of that theatre. His 
speciality was singing songs with a Tyrolese refrain. 
He, like myself, had been engaged to assist at the re- 
opening of the L3^ons Casino, and was due to return 
to the Eldorado later in the year. His name was 
Wely, and he was one of the lesser lights of the Parisian 
Cafes Concerts. 

He went on to the stage and began his opening 
song. This had to do with a lady, apparently pretty, 
who was undressing in a bathing-machine, while 
some indiscreet individual peeped through the key- 
hole. The song was a mixture of suggestiveness 
and the usual " troulalaitou " refrain that is part of 
all so-called Tyrolese songs. The singer's gestures 
left nothing to the imagination in the way of de- 
scribing in infinite detail the physical beauties of 
this Venus in bathing costume ! The audience went 
into ecstasies. 

He had an excellent reception as usual, but as he 
went off I heard him murmuring an abusive epithet 
or two about an audience that seemed to care for 
nothing except the grossities with which the fat 
comedienne had regaled it. 

Then came my turn. My heart was in my mouth 
as I stepped on to the stage. My entry was the signal 
for several ironical remarks, mingled with cat-calls. 

" Oh, la la la ! " somebody called out, " isn't she 
thin ? She's left her figure in her trunk." 

For several minutes, that seemed like an eternity, 
I listened to comments on my personal appearance. 


des moqueries sur mon corsage . . . trop plat ! Je 
ne perdis pas la tete et je chantais. 

Mais alors s'eleva un tel vacarme, un tel charivari, 
que je ne pus continuer, il me fallut sortir de scene, 
au milieu de ma chanson. . . . Toute la salle me sifflait, 
j'essayais de revenir . . . mais le tapage fut tel, qu'il 
fallut baisser le rideau ! 

Je sortis de scene pale comme une morte . . . je me 
sentais defaillir, mes yeux ne voyaient plus les marches 
de I'escalier que j'avais a descendre pour regagner ma 
loge . . . mon cceur semblait cesser de battre . . . je 
me sentais si froide, si glacee que j'eus peur. . . . Je 
restais longtemps assise dans ma loge avant de commencer 
a me deshabiller . . . quand on frappa a ma porte, et 
le directeur du Casino entra ! 

Eh bien, me dit-il assez doucement, qu'est ce qui 
vous a pris " d'entrer en scene " de la sorteP 

Comment done suis-je entree? Comme une dame 
dans un salon ! me dit-il avec un rire inoqueur. . . . 

Eh bien ? 

Mais ma chere, c'est bon a la Comedie Frangaise cela ! 
Mais au music-hall c'est affreusement ridicule. Et puis, 
vous chantez avec un air tranquille, ni bras, ni jambes 
ne semblent remuer, mais c'est triste a mourir que de 
vous regarder ! 

Vous ne savez pas chanter ma chere . . . regardez 
les autres ! Enfin, dit-il, nous verrons demain . . . 
et il sortit. 


" She's as flat as a pancake ! " someone shouted. But 
I kept my head and began to sing. 

Then there arose such a clamour and babel, that 
I simply couldn't continue. I had to go off in the 
middle of my song. The whole hall started hissing 
me. I made an attempt to go back, but the tumult 
grew so tremendous that they had to lower the 

I left the stage as pale as death, feeling as though 
I were going to faint. A mist swam before my eyes, 
so that I could scarcely see the steps that led down 
to my dressing-room. My heart seemed to stop 
beating ; I was as cold as ice, so cold that I began 
to feel frightened. For a long while I sat perfectly 
motionless in my dressing-room without making any 
attempt to undress. Suddenly there was a knock 
at the door, and the manager entered. 

" Well," he said, quite gently, " whatever induced 
you to go on like that ? " 

" Like what ? " I asked. 

" Why," said he, " like a society woman in a 

And he gave me rather a mocking laugh. 

" My dear girl," he continued, " that sort of thing is 
all right for the Comedie Fran9aise, but in a music-hall 
it looks positively ridiculous. Besides, you sing in far 
too quiet a way; why, you hardly stir a muscle, it makes 
one melancholy to look at you. You've got no idea 
of singing at all ; try and imitate the others a bit." 

" However," he said finally, as he went out, " we'll 
see how you get on to-morrow." 


Le lendemain, la Presse comme le Public me 
ridiculisait et feus un chagrin immense en pensant 
que peut-etre ja?nais je ne saurais gagner ma vie et 
celle de ma mere largement ! Je ne cessais de me desoler, 
et de pleurer, j'avais le cceur brise. On saurait 7non 
insucces de Lyon par le chanteur Wely qui bien 
sur le raconterait a son ret our a I' Eldorado, et alors que 
deviendrions nous, ma mere et moi ? 

Je dus quitter le Casino de Lyon apres cinq jours ! 
le public refusait de m'ecouter et se moquait de moi 
des qu'il me voyait paraitre en scene . . . et pourtant 
je n'ai jamais change ma maniere ni d'entrer, ni de 
saluer, ni de chanter, je suis aujourd'hui ce que j'etais 
en ce temps Id a Lyon, 7nais la nouveaute de ma personne 
et de ?non genre etait telle qu'elle me crea naturellement 
des hostilites. . . . 

Les journaux me conseillaient de retourner jouer la 
comedie ! ! mon directeur en me payant mes dix jours 
{quoique n'ayant en realite gagne que deux cents francs) 
me remit mes vingt louis de vingt francs, me suppliant 
de ne pas insister . . .et de cesser mes representations . . . 
Nous eumes une longue et paisible conversation et 
toute d mon idee, que malgre mon chagrin, je ne cessais 
d'envisager " realisable." Je le quittais en lui disant : 

Ecoutez, monsieur Verdellet, tel qu'il est le cafe concert 


The next day the papers endorsed the opinion of 
the audience and poked fun at me. It made me feel 
miserable to think that perhaps, after all, I should 
never be able to make a decent living for my mother 
and myself as a singer. I couldn't stop worrying 
and crying over my failure ; my heart seemed broken. 
Everybody would know about it from Wely, who 
would be certain to retail it on his return to the 
Eldorado. And then what was going to become of 
my mother and me ? 

I had to leave the Casino de Lyon after five days. 
The audience steadily refused to listen to me, and 
broke out into open mockery as soon as I appeared 
on the stage. It is strange to reflect that I have 
never since altered in any single detail my mode of 
entry, nor of making my bow, nor even of singing. 
I am just the same to-day as I was then at Lyons. 
No doubt it was the novelty of my appearance and 
my style of singing that provoked immediate hostility 
in the audience. 

All the critics advised me to return to the legitimate 
stage. The manager paid me for my ten days' en- 
gagement in fuU, though I had not really a right to 
more than 200 francs, but, when handing me the 
400 francs, he begged me to give up singing as a 

We had a long and friendly conversation, all on the 
subject of my ambition, which, in spite of my recent 
mortification, I steadily persisted in believing would 
be realised some day. As we parted I said to him : 

" Look here, M. VerdeUet, notwithstanding the 



est demode, et laid ! ! commun ! ! ! eh hien, souvenez 
vous de mon nom, et vous verrez . . . tenez, vous m'avez 
paye 40 francs par jour, cela ferait 1200 francs pour 
un mots, n'est-ce-pas ? 

Oui . . . eh hien ? dit Verdellet. 

Eh hien, avant un an, je suis sure de revenir ici, a 
1200 francs par soiree f 

II me regarda, et me dit : Vous etes folle ! vous 
etes tout a fait folle, ma pauvre enfant . . . non, 
voyez-vous, il faut retourner au theatre des Varietes 
et continuer a jouer la comedie, car jamais, vous 
entendez, jamais vous ne saurez chanter une chanson 
. . . jamais, et puis ajouta -t- il, voire physique votre 
tenue, votre marche, sont peut-etre tres hien pour " le 
theatre," mats au cafe concert il nous faut des femmes 
tout a fait differentes . . . d'aspect plus joyeux, href, 
ma chere Mademoiselle Guilhert, retournez vite au 
theatre des Varietes. 

Toute la nuit je pleurais . . . j'avais pendant ces 
cinq jours ecrit des lettres desesperees a ma mere, puis 
comme je cherchais la vraie raison de 7non insucces 
je me persuadais qu'il me faudrait une chanson qui 
mit hien en lumiere " ma fantaisie." Alors la dernier e 
nuit comme je ne pouvais pas dormir tant j'etais 


fact that the Cafe Concert is hopelessly out-of-date, 
and vulgar and commonplace into the bargain, I 
would ask you to keep my name in your mind — and 
you'll see ! You have paid me 40 francs a day — that 
is at the rate of 1200 francs a month, isn't it ? " 

" Yes," he said, " what of it ? " 

" Why," I returned, " before a year has elapsed 
I shall come back here and you will pay me 1200 francs 
a night ! " 

He looked at me sorrowfully. 

" You are mad," he said, " quite mad, my poor 
child. No, no, the best thing you can do is to return 
to the Varietes, and go on playing in comedy. You 
will never, never, learn to sing a song properly." 

" Moreover," he added, " your physique, your 
appearance, your gait are all far better suited to a 
theatre. The Cafe Concert needs women of quite a 
different kind, and of a brighter appearance altogether. 
In short, my dear Mademoiselle Guilbert, there's only 
one course open to you, to return to the Varietes, 
and the sooner the better," 

I wept bitter tears all night long after that con- 
versation. During the five days I had been in Lyons 
I had written despairing letters to my mother. I began 
to analyse the reasons for my want of success. After 
a while I was able to persuade myself that the real 
reason was the want of a proper song that would give 
me the chance of showing myself in my true light, 
and vindicate my conviction that I could succeed 
as a singer. 

So utterly worn out that I was unable to sleep, 


enervee, je me mis a rimer 4 petits couplets stir le 
sujet suivant : 

Une jeune fille de bonne famille a hii une coupe 
de champagne au mariage de sa sceur . . . elle est 
gentiment grise et dit des tas de betises, et j'appelais 
ma petit chanson : La Pocharde. 

La chanson finie, avec un refrain que je prevoyais 
tres a effet, je me levais pour enfin prendre le train qui 
devait me ramener a Paris — ma chanson de la Pocharde 
en poche — je ne me doutais pas que La Pocharde ferait 
un jour ma reputation ! 

Done me void en chemin de fer, mes 400 francs en 
poche. Arrivee a Paris, en donnant mon billet, je con- 
state avec des larmes qu'on m'a vole mon argent dans ma 
poche ! ! Imagincz-vous mon desespoir ? Je rentrais 
chez ma mere brisee de chagrin et de decouragement. 

Enfin je me remis a etudier mcs pauvres chansons, 
et un jour ma mere qui m'ecoutait me dit soudain : 

Ecoute, ma cherie, je crois que tu ferais vraiment 
mieux de retourner a la comedie. . . . Je t' ecoute depuis 
des jours et je t' assure que tu es a cote de la verite . . . 
et elle me citait des nonis des chanteuses Theresa, Amiati, 
Duparc, qui, me disait elle, avaient de la voix, et quelque 
chose enfin que je n'avais pas . . . que je n'aurais 
jamais, jamais ! I 


I lay awake that last night at Lyons, and commenced 
to string some verses together in my head, the idea 
of which was as follows : 

A young girl of gentle birth has been drinking 
champagne at her sister's wedding, and is feeling 
just a little bit " squiffy." The result is that she talks 
a lot of nonsense. This was the main idea of the song, 
and I called it "La Pocharde." 

Having finished it off, and added a refrain which 
I foresaw was going to prove very effective, I got up 
to catch the train which was to take me back to Paris. 
I had my precious song in my pocket. Somehow 
or other I felt convinced that " La Pocharde " was one 
day going to establish my reputation. 

Here was I, then, in the train with my 400 francs 
in my pocket. I arrived at Paris, and when I came 
to give up my ticket found that the 400 francs had 
gone ! Someone had picked my pocket ! My despair 
may be easily imagined. I arrived at my mother's 
house absolutely heart-broken. 

During the days that followed I set to work to 
study my poor songs. One day my mother, who was 
listening to me, suddenly turned to me and said : 

" See here, my child, I really believe you would do 
better to return to the comedy stage. I have been 
listening to you for some days now, and I assure you 
you are on the wrong track." 

Then she proceeded to quote the names of several 
singers who had become famous — Theresa, Amiati, 
Duparc, who all, so she impressed on me, possessed 
not only a voice, but a something else that I should 


Cette fois, je fus assommee de surprise et de decourage- 
ment et je pleurals ! et je pleurals ! 

Non ! non I crias-je, c'est moi qui ai raison, c'est moi 
qui suis dans la vraie voie, il faut demolir la routine et 
faire " autre chose ! " 

Enfln arriva le jour de mes debuts a I'Eldorado. 
On me fit chanter i lo heures, en belle et bonne place, 
la salle etait pleine — la musique se fit entendre et j'en- 
trais en scene, sur les dernier es mesures de I'orchestre. 
Un grand silence accuellit mon entree sur scene. . . . 
Je commengais . . . le public tres calnie m'ecouta . . . 
sans applaudir — mais cojnme je devais chanter deux 
chansons je revins et dans le mime silence poli, mais 
terriblement significatif pour Paris, je commengais 
ma seconde chanson — et je sortis de scene, sans un 
pauvre petit bravo. . . . Je defaillais . . . je sentis 
d cette minute que tous mes pauvres rives etaient 

Ma mere avail done raison? Les Lyonnais avaient 
done raison ? Je remontais dans ma loge si atrocement 
desolee, que je n'entendis pas une enorme chanteuse 
crier: C'est maigre commedeux Anglais, et ga voudrait 
etre comique ! 

Ce fut une camarade qui plus tard me raconta la 


a 10 heures 



never acquire as long as I lived. I was overwhelmed 
with surprise and disappointment, and burst into 

" No, no," I cried, " I am right, I know I am. It 
is I who am on the right track ; all I have to do is to 
beat down the barriers of convention and strike out 
something new ! " 

At last the evening of my debut at the Eldorado 
arrived. I was put on to sing at ten o'clock, in an 
excellent position on the programme, when the hall 
would be full. The orchestra struck up, and I walked 
on to the stage as the last bars died away. A pro- 
found silence greeted my appearance. I started my 
song. The audience listened to me in icy calmness, 
and made no sign of applauding when I had finished. 
I had to walk on for my second song in the same 
atmosphere of polite silence, a silence that was terribly 
significant in the case of a Parisian audience. I 
commenced my second song. Once more I left the 
stage without even so much as the sound of one 
poor " bravo ! " I felt as though I must faint. At 
that moment it seemed to me that all my cherished 
dreams were shattered. 

" So my mother was right, after all ? " I thought 
miserably. And the Lyons audience was right too ? 
I made my way back to my dressing-room in such 
an extremity of misery that I never heard a stout 
comedienne call out, " She's as thin as two English- 
women ! And yet she imagines she can succeed as 
a comic singer ! " 

This remark, which emanated from the " colossal " 


boutade dc Mile. Block, la chanteuse " colosse." Tout 
alia de la meme lugubre fagon pendant deux semaines. 
Je chantais devant I'indifference generate — alors on me 
mit ail programme a 8 heures. . . . Je commengais 
le spectacle ! ! personne n'etait dans la salle ! ! I 

Ma directrice, la chere femme, esperait lasser mon 
orgueil et par ce procede me faire quitter la maison, 
rompre mon control . . . mats facceptais tout, car mon 
pain et celui de ma mere en dependait. . . . 

Petit a petit on le sut au theatre des Varietes . . . on 
sut que " la petite Guilhert " etait a I' Eldorado, on 
vint m'y voir, et un soir des camarades amenerent un 
critique dramatique {M. Bisson) — ce fut le coup de 
grace ! Celui la monta dayis ma loge, me dire : 

Ma chere, c'est effarant qu'une fille intelligente comme 
vous puisse croire quelle interessera jamais un public 
en faisant ce que vous faites ici 1 Retournez jouer 
la comedie de suite ! nessayez pas de chanter, vous n'avez 
aucun don pour cela ! Comment, vous avez entendu 
des mois chanter Judic aux Varietes et vous ne sentez 
pas toute la difference qu'il y a entre une vraie diseuse 
et vous ? 

Mais, dis-je a M. Bisson, il n'y a pas qu'une maniere 
au mo7ide de chanter ? Judic n'a pas le monopole 
de la diction, elk a " son genre," je puis avoir " mon 

(Fivtii n ptuntiiii; by Bciiiicu'ilz veil Locfcn.) 


singer Mademoiselle Block, was repeated to me 
afterwards by a friend. Things went on in the same 
melancholy fashion for two weeks. I continued to 
sing amidst this atmosphere of stony indifference, 
until at last they put me down to sing at eight o'clock, 
to open the programme before any of the audience 
arrived ! 

My manageress, the sweet thing, hoped that she 
might wear out my pride and patience, and induce 
me to cancel my contract. But I went on with it, 
for my daily bread, and my mother's, depended 
upon it. 

Gradually they got to know at the Varietes that 
" La petite Guilbert " was singing at the Eldorado. 
Some of my fellow-artists there came to hear me. 
One night they brought a dramatic critic, M. Bisson, 
with them. This was the last straw. He came up 
to my dressing-room, and after a moment or two 
said : 

" My dear child, it is terrible to think that an 
intelligent girl like you could imagine that she would 
be able to please an audience by doing the sort of 
thing you are doing here. Go back to the stage at 
once. Don't try to go in for singing, you have not 
the slightest gift for it. You have heard Judic sing 
at the Varietes for this last month or two ; don't 
you realise the immense gulf that lies between a real 
singer and yourself ? " 

" But, M. Bisson," said I, "is there only one style 
of singing, then ? Judic doesn't possess a monopoly; 
she has her style, why shouldn't I have mine ? Why 


genre ? " chambarder la routine, et enfin creer autre 
chose ? 

Non, non, me repliqua Bisson. La chanson, le detail 
du couplet, ce n'est point ce que vous faites. 

Croyez moi, jouez la comedie . . . jouez la comedie . . . 
et pendant de longs jours, on monta charitablement 
m'avertir de " ma fausse route." 

Enfin un soir la directrice de I'Eldorado, en me 
payant les 600 francs de mon premier mois me mit 
le marche en mains : ou, de quitter la maison, ou de 
rester a 200 francs par mois, pour jouer les petites 
comedies en un acte qui en ce temps Id terminaient 
les spectacles de I'Eldorado. Je devais si j'acceptais 
ces 200 francs renoncer a mon tour de chant. . . . 
Car j'etais ridicule et je gelais le public, m'assura 
t-elle. . . . 

C'etait une fagon polie de me mettre a la porte . . . 
je le compris, et je vois encore la figure congestionnee 
de la pauvre dame quand avec un calme {qui n'etait 
qu' apparent) je lui fis savoir que je preferais partir de 
chez elle, n'ayant aucune joie a toucher 600 francs 
par mois, ni meme 700 la seconde saison, car la " seconde 
saison " elle viendrait chez moi, cette fois me les offrir 
par soiree. . . . 


shouldn't I be able to get off the beaten track and 
create a line of my own ? " 

" Impossible," replied M. Bisson. " The art of 
singing is something quite different from what you 
are doing now. Take my advice and stick to 

Day after day I continued to receive the same 
advice from well-disposed friends, which was all to 
the effect that I was on the wrong road, and had 
better turn back. 

At last one evening the manageress, while paying 
me my first month's salary of 600 francs, placed an 
ultimatum in my hands — either to leave the theatre 
or to stay on at a salary of 200 francs a month, and 
play in the short one-act sketches, which at this 
period always rounded off the programme at the 
Eldorado. It meant, if I accepted, that I should have 
to give up my " turn " as a singer. For she told me 
plainly that I cut a ridiculous figure in that role, and 
had the effect of absolutely freezing the pubUc. 

This was only a polite way of giving me my dis- 
missal, I understood that well enough. I can see 
to this day the anxious face of the poor lady as I 
informed her, with outward calmness (inwardly I 
was anything but calm !) that I preferred to leave. 
I told her that I had no wish to go on handling her 
600 francs a month, nor the 700 which I was to have 
had for my re-engagement in the following season. 
Before that time arrived, I assured her, she would 
come to me and offer me an engagement at 700 francs, 
not per month, but per night. 


Vous ferez, madame, comme Verdellet le directeur 
de Lyon . . . lui, il me donnera 1200 francs par jour. . . . 

Elle retira sa voilette pour mieux me voir. . . . 

Je lui semhlais folle, ou idiote ou malade, Hen 
certainement ; car elle me regarda et eclata d'un tel 
rire, que jamais je n'ai pu I'oublier. 

Un rire moqueur, un rire mechant. . . . 

Et mise a la porte de I' Eldorado je m'en fus a I' Eden 
Concert rue de Rivoli au coin du Bd. de Strasbourg. 

On m' avail dit que la directrice etait bonne, et je m'en 
fus lui co7iter mes essais et mes peines. Elle m'ecouta, 
elle etait en grand deuil d'une fille de mon age, qu'elle 
venait de perdre et comme je lui disais : Ah madame, 
que c'est dur pour une jeune fille de mon age de gagner 
son pain . . . je vis ses yeux se mouiller de larmes . . . 
puis elle resta un long moment sans parler. . . . J'etais 
emue sans savoir pourquoi, car a cette minute j'ignorais 
la cause de son deuil, et le rapprochement que son pauvre 
cceur faisait en silence, entre sa fille, son age, et le mien. 

Combien voulez-vous gagner, mademoiselle ? 

600 francs, madame. . . . 

C'est bien, dit-elle, je vous engage, et le contrat fut signe 
de suite. Quelle joie pour moi de retrouver du travail ! 

A I'Eden nous ne choisissions pas nous-mimes 


" You will be in the same boat, Madame, with 
Verdellet, the manager of the Lyons Casino," I said ; 
" only he is going to offer me 1200 francs a night ! " 

She lifted her veil in order to study my face better. 
No doubt she thought I was mad or ill or something, 
for after looking at me hard for a moment or two she 
burst into a loud peal of laughter, the sound of which 
I have never forgotten. It was a spiteful, derisive 

However, I left the Eldorado, and took an engage- 
ment at the Eden Concert in the rue de Rivoli, at the 
corner of the Boulevard de Strasbourg. 

I had heard that the manageress of that house was 
a kind-hearted woman, so I told her all my experiences 
and my troubles. She had just lost a daughter of 
about my age, and when I said, " Ah, Madam, it is 
hard work for a girl of my age to earn her daily 
bread," I saw her eyes fill with tears. 

For a long while she said nothing. I felt moved, 
though I did not know why, for at that time I was 
ignorant of her loss. She was evidently silently com- 
paring me with her own daughter, who had been of 
the same tender age. 

" What salary do you want, Mademoiselle ? " she 
asked at last. 

" 600 francs, Madame." 

" Very well," said she, " I will engage you." 

The contract was forthwith signed, and I left, 
overcome with joy at the prospect of being at work 

We were not allowed to choose our own songs at 


nos chansons, la directrice, et un poete chansonnier 
de talent, le vieux pere Baillet, qui avail connu le 
grand Beranger, decidaient, si out ou non, telles chansons 
etaient bonnes pour la clientele de famille speciale d 
la maison. Le style de la maison differait totalement 
de celui de I'Eldorado. Ici tout etait honnete, familiale, 
les petites pieces et les chansons etaient pour des jeunes 
filles, la decence exageree amenait les families les plus 
prudes a venir d I'Eden Concert avec leurs enfants, 
et enfin le public de I'endroit savait que chaque vendredi 
le poete celebre Frangois Coppee et le grand critique 
Francisque Sarcey venaient entendre les vieilles chansons 
classiques de la France d' autrefois. C etait la specialite 
de la maison, que ces vieux refrains si terriblement 
di-fficiles a dire ! 

A cette epoque, j'etais plongee dans I'art naturaliste, 
avec les ecrivains comme Zola, Goncourt, Maupassant. 
Je ne revais que Verite, je cherchais a realiser en chansons 
ce qu'ils avaient realise en romans. . . . Quelquechose 
se dessinait dans ma iete, sans se preciser . . . mais en 
attendant je chantais ce qu'on me distribuait. 

J'avais un succes tres ordinaire, je faisais surtout 
comme " effet " celui d'une grande fille " mince comme 
un fil ! " Mes camarades m'appelaient " La Comique 
d r allonges ! " parce que deja j'avais I' habitude d'allonger, 
de tendrc le cou pour chanter. Le critique Sarcey parlait 


the Eden. The manageress, and a clever writer of 
lyric poetry, old Father Baillet, who had been a 
friend of Beranger, decided as to what songs were, 
or were not, suited to the special clientele of the Eden 
which was quite a " family " one. The style of this 
theatre was entirely different from that of the Eldorado. 
The moral atmosphere of the place was clean and 
wholesome, the sketches and songs were such as 
young girls could safely be brought to hear. This 
high moral tone induced even the strictest parents 
to come and bring their children to the Eden Concert. 
And it was well known among the patrons of this 
establishment that every Friday the famous poet 
Fran9ois Coppee, and the equally celebrated critic 
Francisque Sarcey, came to hear the classic songs of 
ancient France. This was a special feature of the 
place, the revival of those old songs, which are so 
terribly difficult to sing. 

I had steeped myself at this period in the " realistic " 
art, as represented by such writers as Zola, Goncourt, 
and Maupassant. My only aim was realism ; I 
tried to do in song what they had done in fiction. 
These ideas were gradually taking definite shape in 
my mind, but while waiting for them to mature I 
went on singing what I was given. 

I only made a moderate success at the Eden. The 
chief effect I appear to have produced on the minds 
of the critics was that of being " a lanky girl as thin 
as a thread." The other artists gave me the nick- 
name of " The Extending Comedienne." This was 
in reference to my habit of elongating my neck when 


souvent dans ses feuilletons des vendredis classiques 
de I' Eden, il me mentionnait a peine, car les Eioiles 
feminines etaient des artistes oubliees a present. 

Quelquefois des etoiles des grands concerts, comme la 
Scala ou I' Eldorado, venaient en courtes representations, 
et alors j'etais releguee Men loin dans V esprit de Sarcey 
et du public ! ! Pauvre Yvette ! . . . 

Enfin, a la fin de la saison, au mois de juin, le concert, 
comme chaque annee, fermait ses portes, pour ouvrir 
le 1^^ septembre. Je voulus alors utiliser mon Ete, 
et priais un agent dramatique de me trouver un contrat 
n'importe oil. 

Une offre niarriva d'aller a Liege au mois 
d'aout. J'acceptais. Un mois pour 1200 francs, 
j'etais ravie. 

Dc jiiin a aoiit je m' occupais de mon repertoire, 
de celui que je revais creer—oii trouverai-je la chanson 
qui ferait partir mon succes. . . . Oil ? oil ? 

Un jour, je fouillais dans les cent petites boites de 
livres de toutes sortes, vendus au rabais sur les quais 
de la Seine, quand ma main tomba sur : Les chansons 
sans gene. Auteur : Xanrof. J'ouvris le livre et debout 
sur le quais je lus le volume entier ! ! 

Combien ? dis-je au marchand. 


singing. Sarcey often spoke of the Classic Fridays 
at the Eden Concert in his critical articles. But he 
hardly ever mentioned me at all. 

The " star " ladies were artists whose names are 
now forgotten. 

Occasionally some of the stars of the bigger concerts, 
like the Scala or the Eldorado, gave short turns at 
the Eden, and then I was relegated to a place still 
further in the background in the minds of Sarcey 
and the general public. Poor Yvette ! . . . 

The season ended in June, and the Eden as usual 
closed its doors, to re-open them in September. I 
was anxious to make use of the summer months, so 
I approached an agent and begged him to find me 
an engagement, I didn't much care where. 

Eventually I received an offer to go to Liege for 
the month of August, which I accepted. 1200 francs 
for a month's work ! I was delighted. 

From June to August I occupied my time in forming 
my repertoire, or rather the repertoire which I hoped 
one day to acquire. Where was I going to find the 
song which was to inaugurate my triumph ? Where, 
oh where ? 

One day I was turning over the volumes of all 
kinds that are displayed in the boxes of the 
second-hand booksellers on the quays of the Seine, 
when I came upon a volume entitled " Les Chansons 
sans gene," the author, Xanrof. I opened the book, 
and straightway, standing there on the quay, read 
through the whole volume. 

" How much ? " I asked the bookseller. 


Douze sous. 

J'achetais le volume . . . la musique des couplets 
etait notee. . . . J'etais haletante de joie. J'avais 
decouvert les premiers bouts de hois de mon futur edifice ! 
J'achetais le petit livre, me promettant d'apprendre 
pour ma rentree a I'Eden, plusieurs de ces satires si 
joyeuses, et si vraiment Parisiennes et vivantes. 
C etait : " Le Fiacre^ 

" La compiainte des 4 Z'Etudiants." 

" Le bain du Modele.'''' 

" L'Hotel du No. 3." 

" C'est le Printemps." 

" Pauvre enfant c'etait pour sa mere." 

" De Profundis." 

" La Brasserie du Pacha " ; 
et tant d'autres couplets joyeux ! C'etait Paris vu 
par un etudiant, un etudiant qui frequentait le Chat 
Noir, ce cabaret oil l' esprit petillait ! Xanrof avait 
24 ans, et toute sa verve jeune et satirique etait dans 
ce premier livre, inconnu de tous, car personne ne 
chantait ses ceuvres ! Lui aussi attendait. . . . Comme 
moi, il espdrait tout, et ne voyait rien venir. Et voild 
que nous allions nous sauver mutuellement. 

Tout le mois de juillet je travaillais les chansons de 
Xanrof. J' en avais choisi trois pour commencer : 
Le Fiacre, Les 4 Z'Etudiants, L'Hotel du No. 3, et comme 


" Twelve sous." 

I bought it and took it home. The tunes were 
included in the book, and I was almost breathless 
with joy at the discovery. For I had found the first 
foundation-stone on which to build up the edifice 
of my future career, 

I made up my mind before I returned to the Eden 
to learn several of these gay little satires, which were 
so vivid and so eminently Parisian. 
The volume included the following : — 

" Le Fiacre." 

" La Complainte des 4 Z'Etudiants." 

" Le bain du Modele." 

" L'Hotel du No. 3." 

" C'est le Printemps." 

" Pauvre Enfant c'etait pour sa mere." 

" De Profundis." 

" La Brasserie du Pacha " ; 
and many other merry verses. This was Paris seen 
through the eyes of the student ; a student who was 
a frequenter of the Chat Noir, that home of scintillating 
wit. Xanrof was then about twenty-four, and had 
put the best of his youthful sparkle and satire into 
this volume. He was at that time quite unknown, 
and no one ever sang his songs. He also was awaiting 
his opportunity. Like me, he was hoping all things, 
and finding that realisation was long in coming. 
Now we were going to enjoy it together. 

AU through July I worked at Xanrof's songs. I 
had chosen three to begin with. They were — " Le 
Fiacre," "Les 4 Z'Etudiants," and " L'Hotel de No. 3." 


d I'Eldorado j'avais chante des couplets dont la musique 
etait d'un compositeur nomme Byrec, j'ecrivis a 
celui ci, lui demandant de vouloir hien me mettre des 
notes sur les paroles de la chanson faite par moi d Lyon : 
La Pochard e ! II accepta. 

II m avail vue d I'Eden concert pendant les 4 mois 
que j'y avais chante, et il avail, lui, une espece de con- 
fiance en moi, souvent mime il m' avail dit : Comme 
vous chantez drolement! . . . mats c'est pas mal du 
tout . . . c'est curieux . . . ct en tout cas, c'est Ires 
personnelle voire maniere f ..." pas Cafe Concert "... 
mais ga viendra. . . . 

Ca viendra ! Pauvre cher homme ! Et ttioi qui 
ne voulais pas que " Cela vienne ! ! ! ^'' 

II vint me voir a Asnieres oil, j'hahitais, ce brave 
Byrec, je lui lus ma chanson en lui fredonnant I'air 
du refrain que j'avais imagine, il le trouva si hien 
approprie aux paroles qu'il le garda, et fit seulement 
la musique des couplets, qu'il m'envoya huit jours apres. 

Bien entendu je savais fort bien que mes paroles 
etaient mediocres, mais je savais aussi quelles etaient 
" sceniques," et c' etait ce que je cherchais surtout. 

J'appris done " La Pocharde " et voulus I'essayer 
a mon premier voyage d^Ete d Liege ou je dehutais 
en aout (1892). Ainsi que mes chansons de I'Eden 
Concert " Les Chansons de Xanrof " furent orchestrees, 
et j'emportais le tout, avec " Ma Pocharde," dont 


At the Eldorado I had sung a song the music of which 
had been composed by a man called Byrec, so I wrote 
to the latter and asked him to compose some music 
for the verses I had written at Lyons, entitled " La 
Pocharde," which he agreed to do. 

He had heard me sing at the Eden Concert and had 
a certain amount of confidence in my abilities. He 
had often said to me : 

" How quaintly you sing ; but it's not half bad. 
It's a curious style, and quite individual to yourself. 
But it's not at all in the Cafe Concert style ; no doubt 
you'll acquire that in time." 

" Acquire that in time ! " Poor man ! He little 
understood that that was the one thing I did not 
want to acquire ! 

Byrec came to see me at Asnieres, where I was then 
living ; I read him my verses and hummed him the 
air of the refrain, for which I had got a sort of tune. 
He thought it so well suited to the words that he kept 
it, and only wrote new music for the verse part. 
This he sent me about a week afterwards. 

I knew well enough that my verses were tolerably 
poor ; but I knew, too, that they offered plenty of 
scope for " business," and that is what I particularly 

I proceeded to learn " La Pocharde " as I wanted to 
try it during my first summer engagement at Liege, 
where I was to appear in August (1892), As the 
Xanrof songs, as well as those I was singing at the 
Eden Concert, had already been orchestrated, I took 
the whole lot with me, and, of course, my "Pocharde." 


void les tres pauvres rimes, que ce grand poete de 
Catulle Mendes appelait : Le Petit Miracle — parce que, 
disait-il, c'etait un miracle d'en tirer le triomphe que 
je leur dus ! 

Chansonette comique 

J^viens d'la noce a ma sceur Annette 
Et comm' le champagne y pleuvait 
Je n'vous VcacK pas je suis pompette 
Car fat pince mon p'tit plumet, 
Je sens flageolet mes guiboles 
J^ai Vcceur guilV ret, Vair jolichon, 
/' suis prcte a fair'' des cabrioles 
Quand fat bu du Moet-et-Chandon 


Je suis pochard' 

/' dis des bctises 

y suis grise 

Mais fa me regarde 

Qu'est c'que vous voulez que j^vous dise ? 

Je suis pocharde 1 

Je jais tres-rar'' ment des jolies, 

Mais quand fen fais, ah 1 nom de nom ! 

Je depass" tout's les jantaisies : 

/' suis plus une fiW f suis un garfon ; 


Here are the four poor verses of "La Pocharde," 
a song which that fine poet Catulle Mendes used to 
call " The Little Miracle," because, as he said, it 
seemed a miracle that I should have been able to 
make the success out of it I did. 



J'viens d'la noce a ma soeur Annette 
Et comm' le champagne y pleuvait 
Je n'vous I'cach' pas je suis pompette 
Car j'ai pince mon p'tit plumet, 
Je sens flageoler mes guiboles 
J'ai I'coeur guill' ret, I'air folichon, 
J' suis prete a fair' des cabrioles 
Quand j'ai bu du Moet-et-Chandon, 


Je suis pochard' 

J' dis des betises 

J' suis grise 

Mais 9a me regarde 

Qu'est c'que vous voulez que j'vous dise ? 

Je suis pocharde ! 

Je fais tres-rar' ment des folies, 

Mais quand j'en fais, ah ! nom de nom ! 

Je depass' tout's les fantaisies : 

J' suis plus une fill' j' suis un gargon; 


A mot V plaisir, la rigolade, 
y m'en fats craquer V corset d^ aplomb, 
Car y a pas, moi, faut que f cascade 
Quand fat hu du Moet-et-Chandon. 
Au Refrain. 


y dis aux gens qui w' reproch'nt la chose, 
Remisez done vos airs de deuil, 
Car c'est VChanipagn'' qu'en est la cause 
Si fai parfois Mariann' dans Vceil, 
Et puis f trouv que c'est toujours bete 
De vouloir cacher son pompon, 
C^est pas un crim^ que d'elr' pompette 
Et d' aimer le Moet-et-Chandon. 
Au Refrain. 

Avoir son grain dans la houssole 
Voyons, (a n'est pas un defaut ? 
Moi, f ris, je chanf , je batifole. 
Tout's les fois qu' fai mon coup $ strop. 
Alors, qtioi ? pour un* petit' meche 
Faudrait-y m' battre a coups d'chausson ? 
J' aim' mieux qu'on w' bait' que d' battr' la deche, 
/' pourrais plus boir' d' Moet-et-Chandon. 
Au Refrain. 

Done j'arrivais a Liege (Belgique) en aout. Je 
chantais Id : 

" A 35 ans." 

" Dans les chasseurs." 

" Josephine elle est malade." 

" Le Fiacre." 


A moi r plaisir^ la rigolade, 
J' m'en fais craquer 1' corset d'aplomb, 
Car y a pas^ moi, faut que j' cascade 
Quand j'ai bu du Moet-et-Chandon. 
Au Refrain. 


J' dis aux gens qui m' reproch'nt la chose, 
Remisez done vos airs de deuil, 
Car c'est I'Champagn' qu'en est la cause 
Si j'ai parfois Mariann' dans I'oeil, 
Et puis j' trouv' que c'est toujours bete 
De vouloir cacher son pompon, 
C'est pas un crim' que d'etr' pompette 
Et d'aimer le Moet-et-Chandon. 
Au Refrain. 

Avoir son grain dans la boussole 
Voyons, ga n'est pas un defaut ? 
Moi, j' ris, je chant', je batifole. 
Tout's les fois qu' j'ai mon coup d' sirop. 
Alors, quoi ? pour un' petit' meche 
Faudrait-y m' battre a coups d'chausson ? 
J'aim' mieux qu'on m' batt' que d' battr' la deche, 
J' pourrais plus boir' d' Moet-et-Chandon. 
Au Refrain. 

I duly arrived at Liege in August, The songs I 
sang there were : 

" A 35 ans." 

" Dans les chasseurs." 

" Josephine elle est malade." 

"Le Fiacre." 


" Les 4 Z'Etudiants." 
" U Hotel de No. 3." 
" La Pocharde " — 
et jugez de ma stupeur quand des les premieres chan- 
sons, la salle entiere acclama la pauvre Yvette ! On 
applaudissait, on trepignait, on m'appelait. Je vins 
saluer plus de dix fois et je dus chanter huit chansons, dont 
ma " Pocharde " pour finir. Alors ce fut inimaginable. 
. . . Ma pauvre petite chansonette m'apportait la fortune, 
le grand succes, une petite gloire . . . / 

J'etais abrutie de joie, de stupeur, je pleurais {de 
joie cette fois). Le lendemain les journaux Beiges 
me consacraient des colonnes de louanges, oii les mots 
de : Nouveau, inedit, original, diction admirable, se 
retrouvent dans toutes les critiques. 

Le bruit de mon succes arriva a Bruxelles et, un 
soir, le directeur de V Alcazar de Bruxelles vint m'offrir 
de chanter chez lui 15 jours a raison de cent francs 
par jour ! j'etais folic de joie — mais tout de meme 
ce furent les Liegeois qui les premiers comprirent 
mon art — je leur garde une affectueuse et si tendre 
gratitude ! 

Le succes me suivit a Bruxelles et j'eus une telle 
vogue, que je signais un contrat a raison de 300 francs 
par jour pour I'Ete suivant, car I'hiver j'etais engagee 
encore pour deux ans a L'Eden Concert. La Presse 


" Les 4 Z'Etudiants." 
" L'Hotel de No. 3." 
" La Pocharde." 

You may imagine my surprise when at my very 
first song the entire audience broke out into transports 
of enthusiasm over poor Yvette. They applauded, 
stamped on the floor, and shouted out my name. I 
had to go on and bow at least ten times, and I had 
to sing eight songs in all, " La Pocharde " to finish 
up with. It was hardly credible that my poor little 
song should bring me fortune, success, fame, at last. 

I was quite overcome with delight and amazement ; 
I wept — but this time they were tears of joy. The 
next day the Belgian papers gave me columns of 
nothing but praise, in which the words " novel," 
" fresh," " original," and " wonderful diction " were 
freely repeated. 

The rumour of my success reached Brussels, and one 
evening the manager of the Alcazar Theatre in that 
city came over with an offer of a fortnight's engage- 
ment at a salary of 100 francs a day. I was in 
ecstasies ! 

But all the same it was the public of Liege who 
were the first to show an understanding of my art, 
and I have ever since retained a feeling of affection 
for them, mingled with a warm gratitude. 

The success I had made at Liege followed me to 
Brussels, and I became so much the fashion that I 
soon afterwards signed a contract at 300 francs 
a day for the following summer, as during the winter 
season I was still engaged to the Eden Concert for the 


de Bruxelles fut aussi encourageant que celle de Liege — 
bref je rentrais d Paris, reassuree, heureuse ! heureuse ! 
Maintenant, me disais-je, il faut conquerir Paris. . . . 

Je rentrais done le 15 septembre a L'Eden Concert. 
J'avais entretemps envoye tons mes splendides articles 
d Madame Saint Ange, ma directrice, et quelle ne fut 
pas ma stupeur de la voir me recevoir avec son habituelle 
impassible froideur triste, si triste ! 

Vous nous chanterez ces fameuses nouvelles chansons, 
Mademoiselle Yvette, et le pere Baillet et moi, nous 
verrons si elles conviennent a noire maison. . . . 

Je fis organiser une repetition toute speciale . . . I'effet 
fut terrible, sauf " La Pocharde," rien ne me fut permis. 

Ce sont des chansons d' artistes, de peintres, des chan- 
sons de studio, me dit-elle, . . . le public Parisien n'en 
voudra pas. 

Toute la matinee j'insistais, je suppliais qu'on me 
les laissa essayer un soir, rien qu'un soir. Elle ne voulut 
rien entendre, et je dus me soumettre. . . . Mais j'avais 
espoir que " La Pocharde " me ferait avancer en grade. . . . 

En effet, devant le succes fait par le public d mes 
couplets, je chantais d 10 heures, au lieu de neuf, ce 
qui etait I'heure " des Etoiles." Chanter d 10 heures 
au beau milieu de la soiree ! c etait le reve de toute s 
les artistes de L'Eden; et pendant un mois, on me 
permit de garder ma chanson au programme, c'etait 


next two years. The Brussels Press was as kind to 
me as that of Liege had been. I returned home 
confident and happy. Now, I thought, I had got to 
conquer Paris. 

It was on the 15th September that I made my 
reappearance at the Eden Concert. I had in the 
meanwhile sent Madame Saint Ange, the manageress, 
all my splendid notices. To my astonishment she 
received me in the same calm, frigid, mournful manner 
as usual — she was a terribly mournful person ! 

" Sing us these famous new songs of yours. Made- 
moiselle Yvette," she said, " and Father Baillet and 
I will see whether they suit our theatre." 

I gave a special rehearsal, but the effect was dis- 
astrous. The only one of the songs they would allow 
me to sing was " La Pocharde." 

" They are songs for the cafe and the studio," 
she told me. " The Parisian public wouldn't care 
for them." 

The whole morning I urged them to let me have 
my own way ; I begged, implored them to allow me 
to try the songs just for one evening. But the 
manageress wouldn't listen to me, and I had to give 
way. I could only hope that " La Pocharde " would 
raise me a step in the public estimation. 

As a matter of fact, owing to the success of my 
songs, I was put on to sing at ten o'clock, the time 
allotted to the " stars," instead of at nine as formerly. 
To be on at ten in a good programme was the dream 
of every artist at the Eden. And I achieved it ! 
Besides which, they allowed me to keep the same 


une faveur, car la regie etait de changer son repertoire 
tous les quinze jours. Done, pendant 4 semaines je 
chantais " La Pocharde." 

J'esperais toujours que Sarcey ou un autre des 
journalistes qui venaient au concert parlerait de mot 
. . . mats le silence restait le meme ! ! et a part la 
petite clientele des modestes bourgeois du quartier, 
personne ne daignait s'apercevoir de moi . . . et 
j'etais revenue a mes petits 20 francs par jour . . . 
puisque mon contrat etait de 600 francs par mois — et 
je rageais en pensant que mon engagement a I'Eden 
etait signe pour trois annees ! J'allais un jour demander 
a ma directrice une reelle aug?nentation, il y avail 
pres de 8 mois que j'etais sa pensionnaire, et vu mes 
services j'esperais un beau geste de la part de Madame 
Saint Ange. Mais elle refusa net des les premiers mots — 
alors je n'eus plus aucune prudence — j'oubliais que je 
pouvais r ester sans pain, si je quittais I'Eden. 

Ou irai-je ? Mais ma vivacite fut plus forte que 
mon raisonnement, et heureusement, car ce fut cette 
nerve site soudaine qui precipita le grand essor de mon 
vol ... vers la gloire, la petite gloire, qui nest pas 
sans amertume pour les etres, qui nes pauvres, comme 
moi, ne pensent jamais que " la reussite " puisse creer 
de la haine envieuse autour de ceux que la chance 


song on the programme for four consecutive weeks, 
which was a distinct mark of favour, as the rule was 
for a singer to vary her repertoire every fortnight. 
Thus I sang " La Pocharde " for a whole month. 

I kept on hoping that Sarcey or one of the other 
critics who used to come to the Eden would give me 
a line in their papers, but they maintained a con- 
servative silence. Save for my own little following 
among the " bourgeois " of the quarter, no one deigned 
to take the slightest notice of me. 

I had, of course, gone back to my modest 20 francs 
a day, as my contract was for 600 francs a month ; 
and I was furious to think that it held good for three 
years. One day I asked the manageress for a rise. 
I had been there nearly eight months, and I hoped, 
considering my services, that Madame Saint Ange 
would agree. But my first words produced a blank 
refusal, a refusal that afterwards led me to throw 
prudence to the winds, and to forget that if I left the 
Eden I might be unable to get an engagement else- 
where, and so be left without the means of earning 
a livelihood. 

But my enthusiasm outran my discretion, and 
fortunately, as it happened, for it was this sudden 
impulse on my part which proved to be the turning- 
point in my career and the first real step on the road 
to fame, that fame which is such a small thing after 
all, and has its moments of bitterness for all who, 
like me, began life in poverty, and never dreamt that 
success could engender envy and malice towards 
those whom fortune has favoured. 


Done, Madame Saint Ange me refusa I' augmentation 
demandee, alors tres tranquillement elle m'expliqua 
que mes succes Beiges ne signifiaient Hen pour 
Paris, la preuve, me dit-elle, c'est qu'aucune de ces 
critiques superbes n'a ete reproduite par un journal 
Parisien. . . . J'etais certaine, continuait Madame 
Saint Ange, que cela vous tournerait la tete. Made- 
moiselle . . . mais, ce n'est pas le petit succes que 
vous venez d'ohtenir avec " La Pocharde " qui fait de 
vous I'egale d'une Madame Duparc dont vous souhaitez 
les appointements. 

Oh, repondis-je, Madame Duparc gagne a Paris, 
d r Eldorado, au moins cent francs par jour, Madame ! 
Et apres tout, je ne sais pas si je n'ai pas autant de talent 
qu'elle. . . . 

A ces mots, ma directrice eclata de rire. C'etait la 
premiere et la vraiment seule fois que j'ai vu cette femme 
avoir un acces de gatte. . . . En tout cas, je fus horrible- 
ment froissee. Que de fois j'ai ri depuis en repensant 
a cette scene ! Mais je fus si vexee que je lui dis : 

Eh bien, Madame, puisque vous croyez que je n'ai 
pas au moins autant de talent que Mile. Duparc, 
c'est que jamais vous ne me comprendrez . . . et que 
vous ne devinez pas ce que je puis faire ! dans ce cas 
Id il vaut mieux nous separer. . . . 

Ma vanite imbecile etait a ce moment si exasperee, 
que je ne me rendis pas compte de I'idiotie de mes 

En tout cas, me dit-elle, puisque vous-meme voulez 
rompre notre contrat, Mademoiselle, n'oubliez pas que 
vous avez tm dedit de 10,000 francs a me verser ! 


To return to Madame Saint Ange. 

She refused to give me a rise, and then calmly 
proceeded to tell me that my successes in Belgium 
went for nothing in Paris, in proof of which statement 
she cited the fact that none of my magnificent notices 
had been reproduced in any of the Parisian papers. 

" I was quite sure, young lady," she added, " that 
your head would be turned by all this ; but the tiny 
success you have had with " La Pocharde " does not 
make you the equal of Madame Duparc, and yet you 
are asking for a salary equal to hers ! " 

" Oh," I replied, " Madame Duparc gets at least 
100 francs a night at the Eldorado. But I'm not so 
sure, after all, that I do not possess just as much talent 
as she does." 

The manageress burst out laughing. It was actually 
the first time I had ever seen her give way to merri- 
ment ! I was horribly offended for the moment, 
though I have often laughed since in recalling the 
scene. I was so annoyed that I said, 

" Very well, Madame, since you seem to think that 
I haven't even as much talent as Madame Duparc, 
it is evident that you wiU never understand me, nor 
grasp what I am capable of. Under those circum- 
stances we had better part company." 

My silly vanity was so much up in arms that I 
never stopped to consider the foolishness of what I 
was saying. 

" Don't forget," replied the manageress, " that if 
you are desirous of cancelling your contract, you will 
have a fine of 10,000 francs to pay ! " 



Je kevins toute froide a ces mots . . . mats 'poussie 
par je ne sais quelle audace, je criais : 

C'est entendu, c'est entendu, je vous paierai vos 
10,000 francs ! et je partis. 

Depuis quelques mois mon vieil ami Zidler etait 
le directeur d'un music-hall-bal, qui s'appelle : Le 
Moulin Rouge. L' Hippodrome ayant ete demoli, Zidler 
avail cree ce hal music-hall, oit tout Montmartre 
se trouvait chaque jour, mele a V aristocratic du faubourg 
St Germain, venant la se distraire aux danses de la 
Goulue, et de Grille d'egout. Le Bal commengait d lo 
heures. Une partie concert commengait a 8 heures 
et finissait i 9.45 heures. 

C'est done a Zidler que je pensais en quittant L'Eden 
Concert. Je lui racontais mon violent depart de chez 
Madame Saint Ange. II m' approuva. 

Tu as bien fait, me dit-il, jamais tu n'aurais eu la 
chance de parvenir a quelque chose devant un public 
habitue aux fadeurs du repertoire de I' Eden; tu es 
moderne, essentiellement moderne ! . . . Alors, je dis : 

Laissez moi chanter chez vous. Monsieur Zidler ; 
... a Montmartre on me comprendra, je chanter ai mon 
repertoire applaudi a Liege et a Bruxelles, et vous verrez 
que mon succes Parisien partira de chez vous. 

Je veux bien ma petite, me dit Zidler, mais tu 


I turned cold all over, but, impelled by some mad 
impulse, I cried : 

" Very well, I understand. The 10,000 francs 
shall be paid." 

Then I turned and left the theatre. 

For the last few months my old friend Zidler had 
been the manager of a Music and Dancing Hall, 
called Le Moulin Rouge, the Hippodrome having 
been pulled down. This idea of a hall for music and 
dancing combined was Zidler's own, and all Montmartre 
used to flock thither night after night, mingled with 
the aristocracy of the Faubourg St Germain, to watch 
the dance of " la Goulue " and of the " Grille d'egout." 
Dancing began at ten o'clock ; there was a concert 
at eight o'clock which was over by a quarter to ten. 

When I left the Eden Concert I immediately 
thought of Zidler. I told him of my angry parting 
with Madame Saint Ange, and he expressed his 
approval of the step I had taken. 

" You have acted rightly," he said, " you would 
never have had the chance of making a name by 
singing to a public that is used to the insipidities 
of the Eden. You are nothing if not modem and 

" Let me sing at your hall, M. Zidler," I said. 
" Montmartre will understand me. I will sing the 
songs that were so popular at Liege and Brussels, 
and my first real Parisian success shall be made with 

" I should be only too pleased, my child," replied 


sais Men qu'ici les etoiles ont des appointements 
mediocres. . . . 

^a ne fait rien, je sens que ma carriere commencera 
id, d Montmartre. 

II fut convenu que je toucherais comme a I'Eden 
600 francs par mois, soit encore 20 francs par jour. 

Mais, me dit Zidler, tu as le droit de t'en alter si tu 
trouves mieux . . . tu es id comme une amie, comme 
ma fille, car j'ai pour tes luttes et tes e^orts une sympathie 
ires affectueuse. 

C'est que, vois-tu, moi aussi dit-il, j'ai eu une jeunesse 
terriblement malheureuse, moi aussi, j'ai eu des jours 
sans pain . . . aujourd'hui je suis riche, heureux, et 
j'ai idee que tu feras comme moi si tu travailles dur, 

J'ai du courage et de la volonte, et qui sait, j'ai peut- 
etre du talent. Monsieur Zidler. 

Eh bien, on le verra ; tu debuteras la semaine prochaine 

II m'expliqua que quant a mon dedit de 10,000 francs 
d payer a Mile. Saint Ange je n'avais pas a m'en tour- 
menter trop, car la loi n'autorisait qu'une retenue 
d'un quart des appointements mensuels. Done il 
s'agissait d'avoir de la patience pour se liquider petit 
a petit de cette dette. 

Mes debuts au Moulin Rouge furent inapergus. 
Ni la Presse, ni le Public ne me donnerent des batte- 


Zidler. " But you must remember we can't afford 
to pay star salaries here." 

" Never mind," I cried, " I feel convinced that I 
shall win my first success here, in Montmartre." 

It was finally settled that I should have the same 
salary as I had been getting at the Eden : 600 francs 
a month, equivalent to 20 francs a day. 

" But," said Zidler, in making the arrangement, 
" you will have the right of leaving at any moment 
if you get a better offer. You will come here as my 
friend, as my daughter almost, for I have taken a 
very warm interest in your struggles for success." 

" Besides," he added, " I myself had a very un- 
happy youth, and went through a good many priva- 
tions. To-day I am well-off and contented, and I 
have an idea that you will be in the same position one 
day if you v/ork hard, Yvette." 

" I have plenty of courage, and the desire to succeed, 
M. Zidler," I answered ; " and perhaps — who knows 
— a little talent also." 

" Very well, we shall see," he replied. " Your 
engagement will begin next week." 

As to my fine of 10,000 francs, which Madame 
Saint Ange had said I should have to pay, he told me 
not to worry too much about that. The law would 
never sanction a fine that amounted to more than 
a quarter of my monthly salaries. He advised me 
to be patient, and pay it off little by little, as and 
when I could. 

My appearance at the Moulin Rouge attracted no 
attention whatever. Neither the press nor the public 


ments de cceur . . . et des semaines et des semaines se 
passerent, quand un jour, un homme de lettres M. Rene 
Maizeroy, vint au Moulin Rouge et, par hazard, assista 
a la partie de concert. Le lendemain, un article me fut 
consacre par lui dans le "Gil Bias." Je jus informee 
de la chose par le brave Zidler qui hrandissait le journal 
comme un etendard de victoire ! 

II y avail dans cet article, une telle description pittor- 
esque de mon physique, que des gens, des artistes {et 
des gens du monde) se derangerent pour voir I'etrange 
petite femine qui chantait au Moulin Rouge. . . . Et les 
peintres, les sculpteurs, les chansonniers, les poetes, 
tout le Montmartre artiste defila chez Zidler et vint 
" poser les premieres pierres " Parisiemies de ma 
reputation. . . . J'avais vaincu la misere ! 

Puis un cabaret voisin du Moulin Rouge m'offrit 
40 francs par soiree, si, apres ma representation au 
Moulin, je consentais a venir chanter — cela me fit 
60 francs par jour. C'etait la fortune. Ma mere et moi 
etions sauvees. 

Ce cabaret oil ne frequentait que le Montmartre des 
studios, s'appelait le Divan Japonais. 

souvenirs heureux de ma jeunesse, de mes premieres 
grandes minutes d'independance, jamais je ne vous 
oublierai ! Quelles acclamations folles sur cette petite 
scene si basse, que ma tete touchait presque le plafond! 
Et tous ces gens qui chaque soir quittaient le Moulin 
Rouge en meme temps que moi — t'en souviens-tu, Maurice 


(From (I pastel by Bcniicivitz von Locfeii.) 


gave me any encouragement. Week after week 
passed, until one day a literary critic, M. Rene 
Maizeroy, happened to look in at the Moulin Rouge 
while the concert was in progress. The following 
day he devoted an article to me in " Gil Bias." I was 
informed of it by Zidler, who rushed in brandishing 
the paper like a flag of victory. 

The article contained a very picturesquely-worded 
account of my personal appearance, and excited the 
interest of many people, both of the theatrical and the 
fashionable world, who came out of their way to see 
the " quaint little woman " who was singing at the 
Moulin Rouge. Painters, sculptors, song- writers, poets, 
the whole of the artistic population of Montmarte, 
flocked to Zidler's Hall, and by so doing " laid the 
first stones " of my Parisian reputation. 

I had done with poverty for ever ! 

Very shortly afterwards a neighbouring Hall offered 
me 40 francs a night, to perform there after I had 
finished my turn at the Moulin Rouge. I accepted 
this offer, which brought my total earnings up to 
60 francs a day. It was a veritable fortune, and my 
mother's and my salvation. 

AU the painters of Montmartre used to frequent 
this HaU, which was known as the " Divan Japonais." 

ShaU I ever forget those first glorious days of 
independence ? Or the wild bursts of enthusiasm 
that filled that Hall, the ceiling of which was so low 
that my head almost touched it ! Or the crowds 
who used to leave the Moulin Rouge every evening 
at the same time as I did — do you remember, Maurice 


Donnay ? — pour arriver au Divan Japonais entendre 
de nouvelles chansons. 

Quelle cohue ! Quelle jumee ! quelle gaite, quelle 
jeunesse amusee et spirituelle etait dans I'air . . . 
pendant que Jehan Sarrazin, le directeur — poete, faisait 
le tour des chaises vendant des olives a ses clients. . . . 
II allait, un petit tonneau sous le bras. II enveloppait 
sa marchandise dans des feuillets poetiques, ses 
ceuvres, non vendues par les mauvais lihraires . . . 
a Paris. 

C'est de Montmartre quest partie ma reputation. 
Tout Paris monta la haut. Comment, pourquoi suis-je 
alors semhlee " perverse " a Jean Lorraine, et d tant 
d'autres hommes de lettres celebres, je n'en sais rien ! 
Mais on me trouva " divinement perverse " {comme 
ecrivit Jean Lorraine) alors que je n'etais qu'ironique 
{etant moqueuse) et douloureuse, ayant connu la misere. 
. . . Enfin voild, on me fit " Perverse," Morbide, Macabre, 
etc., etc. Je racontais la chose a Auguste Vacquerie, 
I'ancien directeur de la Comedie Frangaise. 

Mais qu'est-ce que cela peut Men vous faire, ma chere 
petite ? Laissez dire . . . et devenez une belle artiste, 
vous le pouvez, mais ne restez pas au music-hall, vous 
avez les dons d'une admirable comedienne . . . faites 
du theatre, c'est trop dommage de ne pas mieux utiliser 
un talent pareil. 

Vacquerie et beaucoup d'autres me conseilUrent de la 


Donnay ? — in order to go on to the " Divan Japonais " 
and hear some more of my songs. 

Oh, the crowd, and the smoke, and the gaiety ! 
The spirit of wit and eternal youth was in the air ; 
while Jehan Sarrazin, the manager-poet, went round 
from chair to chair selling his olives. I can see him 
now, with his little cask under his arm ! His wares 
were wrapped up in leaflets on which were printed his 
poems — those great works which the wicked Paris 
Libraries refused to sell ! 

It was Montmartre that established the beginnings 
of my reputation. All Paris came to the Moulin 
Rouge. Why it was that I was dubbed " perverse " 
by Jean Lorraine, and so many other well-known 
critics, I can't imagine. " Divinely perverse " was 
what Jean Lorraine called me. But, as a matter of 
fact, my cynicism was only bom of a spirit of raiUery ; 
and my pathos was the pathos of one who had known 
poverty and wretchedness. 

Still they insisted on calling me " perverse," 
" morbid," " macabre," and so on. I mentioned 
this once to Auguste Vacquerie, the former manager 
of the Comedie Frangaise. 

" But what does it matter, my dear girl ? " said he. 
" Let them say it, it won't do you any harm. Develop 
into a first-rate artist, and, above all, don't remain 
on the music halls. You have aU the attributes 
of an excellent comedy actress. Stick to the theatre, 
it is a great pity not to make a better use of your 

Not only Vacquerie but many other notable men 


meme fagon, Zola, Goncourt, el Alphonse Daudet et 
Octave Mirheau, et Marcel Prevost — et tout le monde ! 

Mon succes Montmartrois me fit signer a raison 
de cent francs par jour un contrat avec le " Concert 
Parisien," cent francs la premiere annee — 200 francs 
la seconde annee et 300 francs la troisieme annee — ma 
mere et moi etions delivrees de tous soucis. 

Je debutais en septenibre 1892 a ce concert, et ma 
popularity fut si vite acquise que mon directeur, de peur 
de me voir enlevee par l' Eldorado, changea de suite les 
termes de notre contrat, et me donna 300 francs par 
jour au lieu des 100 francs stipules ! 

Mais comme la directrice de I'Eldorado m'ecrivit 
qu'elle n'hesiterait pas a me payer le double j'allais 
consulter Zidler. II me dit de montrer cette lettre 
au directeur du Concert Parisien qui consentit a me 
donner ce que m'offrait mon ancienne directrice de 
I'Eldorado, stupe fie e elle aussi de mon ascension, 
qu'elle avait si peu encouragee. . . . Elle fut prise 
de rage quand, venue chercher ma reponse, je lui 
declarais que je ne voulais pas quitter le Concert 
Parisien ou venait de naitre ma petite popularity. 
Je chantais la 3 annees de suite. Puis un proces, que 
je gagnais du reste, me fit quitter le Concert Parisien. 
La Scala m'engagea pour trois ans, et renouvela trois fois 


gave me the same advice ; among them Zola, Gon- 
court, Alphonse Daudet, Octave Mirbeau, and Marcel 
Prevost — everybody, in fact. 

My success in Montmartre was followed by a 
contract with the Concert Parisien at a salary of lOO 
francs a night, which was to be raised to 200 francs 
a night for the second year, and 300 for the third. 
My mother and I were truly delivered out of all our 
troubles ! 

I began my engagement here in September 1892, 
and my popularity was so instantaneous that my 
manager, fearing I might be carried off by the Eldorado, 
altered my contract straight away, and paid me 300 
francs a night instead of the 100 originally arranged. 

The manageress of the Eldorado then offered to 
pay me double what I was getting at the Concert 
Parisien. I consulted Zidler on the subject. He 
advised me to show the letter to my manager, and the 
latter promptly agreed to pay me the salary offered 
by my former manageress at the Eldorado. This 
lady was amazed at my success, which she had done 
so little to encourage. And she was finely angry 
when she called to hear my decision, and I told her 
that I didn't care to leave the Concert Parisien, where 
I had had my first big success. 

I sang at this Hall for three years in succession, 
and then left as the result of a lawsuit, which I won, 
by the way. 

I next took an engagement at the Scala. The 
contract was originally for three years, but it was 
renewed three times, and I sang there for nine years 


mon contrat. J'y restais done neuf annees consecutives, 
et chaque Etc je chantais aux Champs Elysees ou 
pour deux mois je touchais cinquante mille francs. 

J'ai ouhlie de dire que juste un an apres mes debuts 
a Lyon, j'y retournais comme je I'avais predit a raison 
de 1200 francs par soiree. Je fus acclamee cette fois 
par le public. . . . Pourquoi ? Je ne sais pas . . . car 
je m'etais paye le plaisir de lui chanter les memes 
chansons . . . celles qu'il avail siffle 12 mois avant. 
Ah que les artistes ont done des minutes agr cables dans 
leur vie . . . et que ce sueces de Lyon me fut directement 
instructif. . . . Dieu, que les foules sont done curieuses . . . ! 

Et a Paris, comme ailleurs, je voyais tous les gens 
qui m'avaient tant decouragee, me regarder avee une 
stupeur et une gene bien comiques. Cela durera un 
an, affirmaient-ils. 

Mais mon exempie doit servir a d'autres. La volonte, 
soutenue par un travail excessif, mene a tout. Depuis 
mes debuts je travaille plusieurs heures chaque jour 
le matin, et le soir dans mon lit, je lis et note des chansons, 
que je chanter ai plus tard. C'est ainsi que des la premiere 
annee, j'ai commence a eollectionner les chansons des 
siecles passes, me disant que dans 10 ans je les ferai 
connattre. Et voild cinq ans que je les chante apres 
les avoir mises de cote, etudiees avec soin il y « 18 ans ! 

En chemin dc fer une valise-bibliotheque me suit, 


in succession. During the summer months in each 
year I sang at the Champs Elysees, where they paid 
me 50,000 francs for a two months' engagement. 

I had forgotten to mention that exactly a year 
after my first debut at Lyons I returned there at a 
salary of 1200 francs a night, as I had predicted. 
And this time the audience received me with acclama- 
tions. I wonder why ? For it so happened that I 
made a special point of singing the same songs which 
they had greeted with hisses twelve months before. 
There are certain " great " moments in the life of an 
artist, and to me this success at Lyons was one of 
them. It also taught me many things, one of which 
was that audiences are strange beings. 

In Paris, too, as elsewhere, the people who had 
been so ready to discourage me were now filled with 
astonishment at my success, and with a mortification 
that was truly ludicrous. But they consoled them- 
selves by saying that it wouldn't last a year ! 

My experience ought to be of some use to others. 
Determination and hard work can do anything. 
Ever since my first engagement I have worked for 
several hours every morning, while at night I read 
through and study in bed the songs I am going to 
sing. It was in this way that I began to form from 
the very beginning my collection of old songs, in 
the hope that in about ten years' time I might make 
them known. Now for five years I have been singing 
songs that I had laid aside after having carefully 
learnt them eighteen years ago. 

I always take a bag filled with books with me on a 


et je lis et note des chansons. Je suis une hahituee des 
bihliotheques , et j'ai toujours dix ans de travail en 
preparation ! Si je vivais 500 ans, j'aurais de quoi 
remplir ma vie. Car la chanson est une mine si ancienne 
et si riche ! J'aime la chanson que je chante, mats 
j'adore celle que je chanterai. J'aime le travail et 
mon art avec passion, je n'ai jamais de vacances, car 
partout, a la mer ou a la montagne, j'emporte du travail 
— c'est mon repos a moi — ma fete. 

J'ai done chante 12 ans a Paris sans jamais quitter 
la capitate que pour de petits voyages, mais apres mon 
mariage, {en 1900) je profitai d'une fort grave et douloureuse 
maladie pour rompre mes contrats. J' en avais assez 
des music-halls parisicns, je voulais faire autre 
chose, evaluer, elever man art, je sentais d'une fagon 
absolue que j'avais en moi des possibilites de faire 
" mieux " et " plus beau," mais pour cela il fallait 
changer de milieu — et je resiliais de mon plein gre 300,000 
francs de contrat, pour alter vers mon ideal. Cela 
me reussit a merveille. Je voyageais partout — avec 
des ceuvres poetiques. Petit a petit, des chansons 
de petits poetes, j'arrivais aux ceuvres des grands 
po'etes, je m'evadais du repertoire du music-hall — mais 
ma sante commenga des 1894 a devenir un sujet de 
grands tourments. Une longue piriode de souffrances 


railway journey, so as to study the songs in the train. 
I am a regular " habituee " of the libraries ; and am 
always engaged on work for at least ten years ahead ! 
If I lived for five hundred years I believe I should 
find enough material to work upon, for there is still 
a rich and endless store of songs that only needs 
unearthing. I am always delighted with the songs 
I am singing, but I simply adore those which I am 
going to sing some day. I love my work and my art 
with a passionate devotion. I never take a holiday ; 
wherever I may be, on the sea, in the mountains, 
my work goes with me. It is my way of resting — 
my holiday. 

I sang in Paris for twelve years, never leaving it 
except for one or two short tours abroad. But after 
my marriage in 1900 I took advantage of a very 
serious illness to cancel all my engagements. I had 
had enough of Parisian music-halls. I wanted to 
do something better ; to develop and elevate my art. 
I felt convinced that I had within me infinite possi- 
bilities for higher things ; but I should have to change 
my surroundings first. And so of my own accord I 
cancelled contracts amounting in all to about 300,000 
francs, in order to try and realize my ideal. The 
result was wonderfully successful. I travelled every- 
where, singing a far more artistic type of song than 
I had done hitherto. From the minor poets I gradually 
climbed to the greater, and eventually abandoned 
my music-hall repertoire altogether. 

Ever since 1894 ill-health has been a constant 
trial to me. I went through a long period of suffering ; 


m'etait reservee, une grave maladie des reins me mit en 
danger de mort. Une operation radicale du rein droit 
fut faite et plus d'une longue annee je fus couchee . . . 
c'etait en 1899. Mon cceur passa par toutes les transes, 
car la mort se mit cinq fois siir mon passage . . . et 
depuis 1899 je suis " La malade miraculeuse," car 
grace a la bonte Divine je suis encore de ce monde, et 
cette fois partie pour la sante parfaite. 

Mais quelles luttes I ! De 1894 a 1910 j'ai souffert, 
et comment ! Seize ans de souffrances sur diz-huit 
ans de carriere — ajoutez a cela, que depuis I' age de 13 
ans je suis au travail, soil un ensemble de trente ans 
de luttes de toutes sortes. Ah ! sans Dieu oil serais- 
je ? ! C'est lui qui soutint mes energies. Je suis fiere de 
mes quarante-trois ans, ils furent employes magnifique- 
ment. Du jour oil j'ai gagne cent francs par soiree, 
je me suis souvenue des mauvais bouchers et des boulangers 
durs . . . et ma bourse et mon cceur ne se fermerent 
plus jamais a ceux qui vinrent crier au secours chez 
moi — grace a I'aisance gagnee par mon travail j'ai 
pu realiser le reve de mes nuits de misere, j'ai pu eviter 
a des centaines d'etrcs malheureux les desespoirs, Ics 
angoisses, connus et endures par moi. 

J'ai vecu noblement, depensant avec largesse ce que 
Dieu mettait en mon pouvoir, mais si j'ai vecu bellement 


once a dangerous illness nearly terminated fatally, 
I had to undergo a severe operation, which resulted 
in my having to lie up for a whole year in 1899. On 
five separate occasions I have been confronted with 
the fear of death ; and I look upon myself as a really 
" miraculous " invalid, for by the mercy of God I am 
not only still alive, but at last on the road to perfect 

But, oh, it has been a struggle ! How I have 
suffered during the past sixteen years ! Sixteen 
years of suffering out of the eighteen during which I 
have been before the public ! Adding to this the 
fact that I have been working for a living ever since 
I was thirteen years old, I may be said to have had 
thirty years of constant struggle. Where should I 
have been without God's help ? It is He Who has 
sustained my energies, and I am proud of my forty- 
three years of life, for they have been wonderfully 
full and not ill-spent. Ever since I began to earn 
a salary of 100 francs a night, I have thought of the 
hard-hearted butchers and bakers of my youth ; 
and my heart and purse have ever been accessible 
to those who sought my help. Thanks to the com- 
fortable income my work has earned for me I have 
been able to realize some of the dreams of my earlier 
days of want and poverty, and to do something to 
mitigate the misery and despair — evils with which 
I had myself been so intimately acquainted — of 
numberless unfortunates. 

I have lived unselfishly, distributing with a lavish 
hand according to my means. If I have lived in 



fai fait vivre les autres. J'ai toujours evite les folies 
de parade, si cheres aux femmes en vue, fai toujours 
eu le gout des parures simples, pas voyantes ; je ne porte 
jamais de bijoux, et ne me montre jamais dans les 
reunions a la mode. Je n'aime ni les courses, ni le 
jeu, ni la vie mondaine, ni les receptions, ni les restaur- 
ants, rien de ce qui constitue " Le Bonheur " de tant de 
femmes ! 

Mon bonheur a moi est tout autre . . . c'est mon 
" home," ou la tendresse inipuisable d'un ipoux me 
rempiace mille fois toutes les pauvres accessions des 
belles dames en quete eternelle de la vie heureuse — nous 
sommes reunis parfois a des amis qui ont nos gouts 
discrets, et noire maison est celle du travail — de la charitS 
chretienne — de la Paix, et du Bonheur, n'est-ce point 
la plus belle, la plus rare surtout, des rares victoires 
remportees sur la vie P 

Merci a Dieu ! Et void fin de cette longue preface 
ecrite en toute simpiiciti, sans souci, d'une forme litteraire 
quelconque, mais tout bonnement exprimant les tourments 
et les joies d'une vie d' artiste. 

/ f/^ 


comfort, I have given comfort to others too. I have 
avoided all outward show and display, so dear to the 
hearts of many women ; have kept my taste for simple 
clothes ; and never wear jewelry. I seldom attend 
fashionable functions ; I don't care for racing or 
gambling, nor the life of fashion ; dining-out, and all 
the other little pleasures that go to make up so many 
women's lives, have no attractions for me. 

My pleasures are of quite a different kind. My 
home, and the loving and tender care of my devoted 
husband, more than compensates for all the empty 
pleasures so beloved of women of fashion in their 
eternal quest after happiness. 

We have little gatherings of friends occasionally, 
people of the same quiet tastes as ourselves, but our 
house is mostly a place of work, and also, if I may 
say so, of Christian charity, peace, and above all, 
happiness, the most precious of all life's gifts, and 
the one most difficult to acquire. 

For all this my thanks are due to Almighty God ! 

And now I am at the end ofmy life's story, a story 
written in all sincerity, and laying no claims to literary 
distinction. It is just a simple tale, depicting in all 
faithfulness the joys and sorrows of an artist's life. 








In endeavouring to present a true picture of Yvette 
Guilbert's career it is inevitable that I should, to 
some extent, have to cover the same ground over 
which she has already travelled in her autobiography. 
But the two pictures, though similar in some of their 
details, are yet essentially different. They represent 
two distinct views, the inward view of the artist 
herself, and the outward view of the world at large. 
This will, I hope, be considered a sufficient apology 
and defence for any seeming repetitions that may 

H. S. 





The art of Yvette Guilbert is something unique, 
apart. To attempt to describe it in words is almost 
a hopeless task. One is in despair ; there is so much 
to say, and yet, when one comes to say it, so little. 
And to try to gain any adequate impression of her 
from the written word is very much like studying 
a beautiful picture from its description in the catalogue. 
The catalogue will inform you as to the subject, and 
the name of the painter ; it may add a line or two of 
intelligent criticism ; but when you see the picture 
itself you are tempted to throw the catalogue in the 
fire, from sheer irritation at its ineffectiveness. So it 
is with Yvette Guilbert. You must see her, and study 
her for yourself. 

For she is, for all the world, like a beautiful picture. 
There are some pictures, excellent enough in their 
way, which make a certain appeal to the senses, but 
they require very little study, their beauties are 
superficial and apparent ; they cannot hold your 
attention long. But there are other pictures before 
which you may stand for hours, and yet not be able 
to comprehend all their beauties, or read aright the 
message they are meant to convey. All you know 


is that here is genius, real living genius ; and day 
after day you are tempted to visit that picture again. 
And that is just the difference between Yvette Guilbert 
and all the others, great and small, who have appeared 
on the music-hall stage. 

For here, too, is genius, real, living, sparkling genius. 
Whether she is singing of tragedy, as in the song 
" Ma Tete," the grim horrors of which she brings so 
vividly before you, or light-heartedly carolling some 
dainty, airy trifle, she holds you with an irresistible 
spell. What are the secrets that enable her to weave 
this magic spell ? 

First and foremost, then, there is genius. Yvette 
Guilbert has that sure touch which seldom, if ever, 
makes mistakes — a touch that turns everything she 
does to gold. Out of an apparently simple ballad 
she evolves a whole tragedy or comedy, as the case 
may be. And such a tragedy, such a comedy ! With- 
out the aid of any extraneous effects, such as scenery 
or costume (for she very seldom " dresses " the part 
she is portraying), she brings vividly before your 
eyes the story and the atmosphere of the song she 
is singing. Her emotions become yours ; you enter 
by way of her art into every phase of joy and sorrow 
that the world has ever known ; you forget that it is 
an imaginary world of which she sings ; to you for the 
moment it is a real living world, your world, the every- 
day world of human emotion, of mirth and laughter, 
sorrow and tears. You even forget that such a person 
as Yvette Guilbert exists, which is, perhaps, the 
highest tribute you can pay her. 


This genius, though to a great extent inherent, as 
genius must always be, is very largely the outcome 
of that infinite capacity for taking pains, for which 
it is popularly supposed to be a synonym. Anyone 
who follows the story of Yvette Guilbert's life in detail 
will be bound to acknowledge that the heights to 
which she has attained have not been scaled without 
much arduous climbing. It is a story of strenuous 
endeavour, of constant struggling in the face of diffi- 
culties, of opposition and discouragement. Added 
to the eye quick to see, and the brain swift to under- 
stand, she possesses to an extraordinary degree the 
faculty for painstaking observation, and the minute 
consideration of detail, which is one of the elements 
that make for greatness. Every one of the songs 
which she presents to her audiences is the result of 
an elaborate study, a study in the first place of the 
actual phases of life with which it deals, and in the 
second place of the song itself. Thus, though it is 
of an imaginary world she sings, it is only imaginary 
in the sense that the story belongs to the realm of 
fiction. The types of character that she represents are 
of the real world, their emotions are the emotions 
of living people, brought before us in all the human 
intensity by the sympathetic insight of one who has 
seen, and known, and understood. Perhaps it is 
because she understands life and humanity so well 
that she reaches our hearts so quickly. For Yvette 
Guilbert, in everything she does, is intensely human. 

Indeed, Realism, in all her songs, is the keynote to 
Yvette Guilbert's art. She depicts for us the little 


daily tragedies and comedies of life, those tragedies 
and comedies which are often in themselves so mean 
and so petty, and yet go to make up the sum total 
of humanity's joys and sorrows. Under her inspired 
touch these tragedies lose their pettiness, and stand 
out as great human dramas, invested with an in- 
describable pathos. We see life as we never saw it 
before ; we see the infinite littleness of it, and also 
its infinite bigness. Immorality becomes merely a 
saddening phase of hiunan character ; vice " loses 
half its evil by losing half its grossness " ; life stands 
forth naked and unashamed, shorn of all its deceptions 
and make-believes. And her handling of hfe's comedies 
has just the same effect, though approached through 
a different door. We begin to appreciate how much 
of humour there is in the little everyday incidents 
of our narrow world ; and in the light of that know- 
ledge our world becomes at once less narrow, and our 
outlook saner, broader, and more sympathetic. 

In addition to the possession of genius, natural 
and acquired, she has in a marked degree the two 
important qualities of personality and temperament. 
Every great artist, of course, has a personality of his 
or her own ; but in Yvette Guilbert it is so beautifully 
subdued to, and blended with, her art, that while it 
never obtrudes itself, it is for ever making its presence 
felt in a subtle, intangible sort of way. It is a delight- 
ful personaHty, feminine to the finger tips, full of little 
unexpected surprises, a thing of infinite charm. And 
in the range and scope of her temperament she is 
almost unique. The Yvette Guilbert in her long 


black gloves and severely-cut gown was the very 
picture and essence of tragedy. Ten years later, in 
Pompadour powder and crinoline, she became the 
living incarnation of all that is gay and frivolous. 
But whether it is of tragedy or comedy she sings, she 
invariably sounds exactly the right note. With her 
pathos and humour are curiously intermingled. In 
her moments of deepest tragedy there is always a 
subtle element of humour, albeit a rather grim humour, 
running through it, so that you hardly know whether to 
laugh or cry. It is the humour that is born of infinite 
pity, a pity that comes in its turn from an infinite 
understanding. And, in the same way, underneath 
her lightest humour one can always discern the touch 
of tragedy born of the same infinite pity. " Life is so 
sad ! " she seems to say. " But what matter, mes 
amis ? Let us laugh and be merry, you and I ! " 

This, indeed, would seem to be the manner of 
Yvette Guilbert's outlook upon life. She is a cynic, 
but a genial cynic, and an optimist at heart. If she 
does not preach from the text that " all is for the 
best in this best of all possible worlds," she still would 
have us believe that the world with all its drawbacks, 
its troubles and heartaches and tears, is not such a bad 
place after all. It all turns on the question of making 
the best of things, and of being possessed of a sense 
of humour. And so when she weeps, it is with 
laughter on her lips, and when she smiles, she smiles 
through a mist of tears. Thus, even in her most 
tragic songs, she never gives you the impression 
that her desire is merely to inspire you with horror. 


while her gayest and most hght-hearted ditties are 
always something more than mere humorous songs. 
They are one and all little pictures of life, touched 
in with the sure and unerring hand of the true artist. 

There is one song in particular she sings which 
illustrates this wonderful blending of tragedy and 
comedy to a very marked degree. This is " Notre 
Petite Compagne," the words of which are by Jules 
Laforgue. The song is arranged to a melody of a valse 
of Waldteufel, a melody whose spirit of reckless gaiety 
and abandon at once gives the keynote to the picture. 
It is a woman of the cafes who is singing. She stands 
there, a hopeless picture of a wasted life, with the 
shadow of some deeper understanding dawning in her 
eyes, and a smile of bitter mockery on her lips. She 
is addressing her admirer of the moment ; bidding 
him to be content with her outward beauty and charm 
— what is left of it — and not to seek to probe the hidden 
mysteries of her nature. " Je suis ' La Femme ! ' 
On me connait ! " That is the cry that haunts one 
through the song ; the refrain that comes again and 
again. " Je suis ' La Femme ! ' On me connait ! " 
Beneath those words lies the whole mysterious problem 
of the Eternal Feminine. Now she delivers them 
blatantly, defiantly ; now mockingly, almost mirth- 
fully. Always the shadow in the eyes and the laughter 
on the lips. She is tearing her very soul to pieces 
with thoughts of the past, and, above all, of the 
future. But the present is still hers ; there is yet 
time for a laugh and a song. So with an effort she 
pulls herself together. " Je suis ' La Femme ! ' 


On me connait ! " with a shrug of her shoulders this 
time. You want to weep, and you find yourself 
smiling. Tragedy is there, but it is the child and 
offspring of Comedy. 

In her lighter moments Yvette Guilbert's art is 
a thing of sheer joy and fascination. Humour bubbles 
out of her as spontaneously as song from a bird. 
And it is infectious. The laughter seems to ripple 
off her lips as she sings ; the delicious intonations 
of her voice, varying with every line, with every word 
almost, seem to play upon your senses as a skilled 
musician plays upon an instrument. Every fibre in 
you responds to the gaiety, the drollery of her ; till 
at the close of the song you feel yourself drawn 
irresistibly to your feet, compelled to shout " bravo ! 
bravo ! " from the sheer force of your pent-up feelings. 

Admitting her possession of these qualities which 
go to make a great artist, we are naturally tempted 
to go still further and seek to discover the particular 
methods by which she makes her effects. They are, 
for the most part, curiously negative in quality. It 
is not so much by what she does as by what she 
leaves undone that she finds her way so quickly, 
through our intelligence, to our hearts. Restraint 
is the dominant feature of her art. There is no 
striving after effect in Yvette Guilbert's singing, no 
exaggeration of action in order to drive her moral 
home. As a matter of fact she scarcely moves at 
all ; and her gestures are at times so minute as almost 
to escape the notice of the uninitiated. " She gets 
more significance out of a sigh, a laugh, a pout, than 


most actors get out of a whole act," as a writer has 
well put it. An almost imperceptible shrug of the 
shoulders can convey, with her, a whole world of 
meaning. Every little movement tells ; the severest 
critic would find it hard to detect a superfluous gesture. 
It is all so simple and beautifully restrained, that one 
is inclined to wonder sometimes at the effect she 

Perhaps one of the chief secrets of her charm lies in 
her facial expression, and, above all, in the play of 
her mouth. She once referred to this herself, when 
speaking of her singing. " I discovered," she says, 
" that the applause I received for certain songs 
always depended on the lines which I gave to my 
mouth. I was three months trying to solve the clue 
to this mystery, when one day a friend who had just 
heard me sing made the remark that whenever I 
protruded my lips the most sentimental lines took 
on an air of absurd gaiety. That gave me the clue I 
had been looking for, and I have never forgotten it." 
But this, after all, is an unsatisfactory way of trying 
to explain the unexplainable. It is in the whole 
play of her facial expression that Yvette Guilbert 
reigns supreme. And here, as in her gestures, she 
shows a wonderful restraint. There are no exag- 
gerated contortions, no superfluous grimaces. In the 
uplifting of her eyebrows, the slightest movement of 
her lips, the expression of her eyes, she gets all the 
effects she needs. And it is marvellous how by doing 
so little she can achieve so much. 

Lastly, there is her voice. Yvette Guilbert is not 


a great singer. As a matter of fact she can hardly 
be said to sing at all in the actual sense of the word. 
Her delivery of her songs is not so much singing, as a 
perfect combination of the singing and the speaking 
voice. Yet it is nothing like recitation to music ; 
far from it. The music is always an integral part of 
her song ; and she never entirely loses the thread of 
the melody, though here and there breaking off into 
what might be described as a half-spoken recitative. 
And in one respect there are many singers, not only 
those on the music-hall stage, who might learn a 
valuable lesson from her. Her diction is well-nigh 
perfect. Every word, every syllable, rings as clear 
as a bell — and each is given just its proper significance. 
It was this which made such an impression on Max 
Nordau when he first heard her. He declared that 
he had never heard an artist who so absolutely con- 
veyed the meaning of the words of a song. And this 
is perfectly true. Yet, as I have said, it is nothing 
like recitation. Spoken, the words would lose half 
their effect, would become divested of those subtle 
shades of meaning which Yvette Guilbert gives to 
them in her singing. It is the harmonious blending 
of these two modes of expression, recitation and 
singing, which make Yvette Guilbert's art a thing 
unique, apart. The inflections of her voice are so 
many and so varied, that she can convey a whole 
range of emotions by the use of them alone. Anger, 
fear, mockery, grief, or irresponsible gaiety, she seems 
to slip from one to the other with the slightest of 
efforts. Indeed, the ease with which she depicts for 




us the play of emotion is one of the most perfect 
phases of her art. 

Quite recently Yvette Guilbert made an instantane- 
ous success as an actress in ordinary comedy. But 
the stage is not the true place for her talents. Her 
individuality, brilliant and conspicuous as it is, must 
necessarily become more or less merged in that of 
the other characters of the play, and in the atmo- 
sphere and story of the play itself. In a play she is 
only one character, and the shades of meaning which 
she can read into the interpretation of that character 
are naturally limited, by the inherent limitations of 
the drama. In the singing of her chansons, in which 
she is not one character but a hundred, she has found 
a perfect medium for the revelation of her wonderful 
personality, of her talents, and of her genius in that 
peculiar form of art which she has made so inimitably 
her own. 



YvETTE GuiLBERT, like many another great artist, 
had her early struggles and disappointments. She 
herself has given us, in the earlier portion of this 
book, a vivid picture of her career as a singer, but it 
is hardly out of place to supplement this with a brief 
resume of her history, and to fill in the outlined sketch 
with the comments and criticisms of many notable 
writers who have followed her career with interest, 
and have given to the world from time to time their 
impressions of her personality and her art. 

M. Carle des Perrieres, in " Gil Bias," has given a 
very striking and eminently faithful picture of the 
different stages of her career. Speaking of her early 
struggles and history, he says : 

" One of the most interesting features in the char- 
acter of this Parisian star is her wonderful tenacity 
and will-power ; the energy which has enabled this 
young anaemic-looking girl, by no means beautiful, 
and possessed of none of the Parisian elegance and 
chic, to scale the ladder of fortune and reach a 
position of eminence, with no advantage to help 
her win her way in the career, so thickly strewn with 
obstacles, which she had chosen for herself. 

" Her history is commonplace enough. Left at an 


early age without a father, she and her mother, two 
honest, intelHgent women, bravely facing the struggle 
which awaited them, started a dress-making business ; 
and Yvette, at fifteeen years of age, scoured the big 
shops in search of new fashions, and sold the hats which 
her mother and her assistants had made. 

" The business, which began to prosper, was eventu- 
ally ruined by the necessity of having to pay off the 
debts which had been left behind by Guilbert's father. 
Then Yvette became an assistant at the Magasin du 
Printemps, where she was the light and life of the 
place. Always merry, with plenty of intelligence, 
and possessed of a highly-developed artistic instinct, 
Yvette had a charm of manner all her own, frank and 
almost boyish, unaffected and happy-go-lucky, that 
was quite in keeping with her appearance. At this 
time the law for providing seats for shop assistants 
had not been passed ; and Yvette, anaemic as she was, 
and suffering from an internal complaint which pre- 
vented her taking sufficient nourishment, had eventu- 
ally to quit the shop and return to her mother. 

" In order to provide the necessities of life, and 
maintain her delicate child, the mother became a 
seamstress. Then followed a terrible period of misery, 
during which these two poor women supported them- 
selves by the meagre products of their needle, which 
were rendered all the more inadequate by the fact 
that they had to find money to pay for the daily 
medicine, since a dispensary gives no credit. 

" It was a mere chance that lifted Yvette out of 
these modest surroundings. Longing to breathe a 


little fresh air, she was taken by a friend to Sari's 
house, at a time when poor Leon was still Squire of 
Vaux, and the Seine, so delightfully picturesque 
between Triel and Meulan, flowed past the end of 
his garden. 

" It was there that I saw her for the first time, 
clad in a modest black dress, but merry and intelligent ; 
a happy girl, laughing with sheer delight of the open 
air and the sunshine mirrored in the waters of the 

" Among this band of artists and holiday-makers 
the conversation was not always too strait-laced ; 
but Yvette, endowed with a wisdom beyond her years, 
took their pleasantry all in good part, and in the 
matter of repartee held her own with the best of them, 
so that she soon became very popular with all the 
guests. But she was so sickly and weak that she 
would often faint dead away while running or jumping 
into a boat. 

" And then poor Leon, with a scared look on his 
kindly face, would say to her in a tone that was half- 
tender and half -reproachful : ' My dear girl, you 
will kill yourself if you're not careful. Stay here a 
fortnight, a month if you like, but take care of your- 
self. Get plenty of fresh air, and some gentle exercise, 
or you'll die to a certainty ! ' She often returned to 
Vaux in later days, and these country excursions 
and mouthfuls of fresh air would renew her strength 
for the work of the coming week. 

" It was at Vaux, surrounded by theatrical people, 
that Yvette began to be haunted with the idea of 


tempting fate, and striking out a career for herself. 
With her inborn courage and resolution she gave 
herself two years for the attempt. It was Landrol 
who gave her her first lessons in elocution, and secured 
her eventual debut at the Bouffes du Nord." 

The way in which she was brought to Landrol, to 
break off M. des Perrieres' narrative for a moment, 
has already been graphically described by Yvette 
Guilbert herself. How she met M. Stoullig, and 
how he sent her to Landrol, may be read in her 

" I gave her an introduction to Landrol," says M. 
Stoullig, writing in " Le National," " and the latter 
wrote to me (I have his letter still) that he had seldom 
met so intelligent an individual." 

Then after detailing the various stages of her 
subsequent career, M. Stoullig closes his article with 
the following appreciation : — 

" What she was — that you know as well as I do. 
What she wants to be — the Judic, the Granier, the 
Rejane of the Variety Stage, when Rejane, Granier, 
and Judic are but a memory. What she is — a witty, 
amazing, and original singer, who richly deserves 
the success accorded her, not only by the approval 
of the critics, but by the applause of the public, which 
is a more intelligent creature than we are inclined to 
think, and does not take a new Music Hall Diva to 
its heart without good reason. Go and hear my 
little god-daughter ; she is worth the trouble ! " 

After some months' study with Landrol, Yvette 
Guilbert obtained her first engagement at the Bouffes 


du Nord, playing the part of the Duchesse de Nevers 
in "La Reine Margot." Other small engagements 
followed, at the Cluny and at the Varietes, where 
she played small parts for two seasons, alongside of 
such well-known figures as Rejane, Judic, Granier, 
Baron, Lassouche, and Christian. " It was in watch- 
ing them act," she says in her autobiography, " that 
I leamt the art of singing." 

At the point of her debut at the Bouffes du Nord, 
M. des Perrieres takes up the narrative once more : 

" They were playing ' La Reine Margot ' ; I shall 
always remember it. Never in my whole life have 
I seen so peculiarly comic a Duchesse de Nevers as 
was this one when she cried, ' Guards, follow me ! ' 
She reached the other door with such rapidity that 
the guards were obliged to break into a trot in order 
to follow her at all. She covered the stage in three 
strides ! In the pathetic scenes with la Mole and 
Coconas her laughing eyes wore an expression of 
roguery which she could not succeed in hiding. Her 
grand airs, accompanied by the gestures of a street 
urchin, gave one the impression of a duchess bom at 
Menilmontant, and won for her the applause of the 
workmen of the quarter. Try and imagine Alice 
Lavigne playing the part of the Duchesse de Guise ! 

" Still, she imparted so excellent a comedy element 
to this dismal tragedy, that Marx, the manager from 
the Cluny, who had gone there to see her play, en- 
gaged her straightway to play the principal part 
in ' Rigobert.' From * La Reine Margot ' to ' Rigo- 
bert ' was a step indeed ! From this date Yvette 


became a rolling stone, moving from theatre to 
theatre, meeting with nothing but disappointments. 
Then followed another eighteen months of misery, 
no longer with the trade of seamstress in prospect, 
but trotting about in the snow and mud from one 
end of Paris to the other to rehearsals. 

" After the Cluny followed the Nouveautes, and 
then the Varietes, where the debutante was tried 
in * Le Fiacre 117 ' and ' Decore.' Only Meilhac, 
quick to see the artist in her, praised her rendering 
of the parts. 

" Reduced to playing small parts, she was next 
seen at the Varietes, as one of Bluebeard's wives, 
wearing a long white dress, with her wide forehead 
bare, and an air of melancholy about her, the sure 
sign of the disappointed. 

" The experiment had been a conclusive one. 
Eighteen months had gone by and she had only 
attained to the dignity of playing Bluebeard's fifth 
wife ! The part could certainly not be called an 
extensive one. With the resolution which is char- 
acteristic of her, Yvette suddenly decided to quit 
the theatre altogether. 

" ' I have no talent for it,' she told her friends ; 
' and then, besides that, I am too ugly ; I shall never 
make a success on the stage. Moreover, the time I 
allotted to myself for the purpose has expired. I am 
going to make a new lease, and give myself two years 
to succeed at the Cafes Concerts.' 

" And so, rebuffed but not discouraged, this per- 
sistent and tenacious creature, who had only her 


own wits to depend on, began to seek for a new 

The story of these eighteen months, as told by an 
outside observer, is illuminating, and reveals more 
vividly than anything else could do the extraordinary 
courage and tenacity of purpose which have helped 
to raise Yvette Guilbert to the position which she 
holds to-day. For the time being, at any rate, her 
career as an actress was over. Henceforth she 
intended to woo the favour of another pubUc, the 
public of the Cafes Concerts, and that in the role 
of a singer. 

Her family were horrified at her decision. Her 
mother told her frankly that with a voice like hers 
it was quite impossible for her to achieve any success 
in her proposed career ! In fact, it was the purest 
folly even to think of it. And aU her friends, and 
the rest of her family, endorsed that opinion. Nine 
people out of ten, after the failures and rebuffs that 
Yvette Guilbert had experienced, would have given 
up in despair. But then nine people out of ten always 
do the obvious and the commonplace thing. It is 
the tenth person who has the courage and strength 
of mind to strike out an independent line ; and Yvette 
Guilbert was essentially that tenth person. And so 
she stuck to her guns, and persisted in following the 
course she had mapped out for herself. 

It is interesting at this juncture, when, smarting 
under past failures and disappointments, she was 
being assured by her family and friends of further 
dismal failures to come, to look forward a year, and 


to read, by way of contrast, of another appearance of 
Yvette Guilbert at the Varietes, in December 1891. 

" Last Sunday," says a writer in " L'Echo de Paris," 
" Mademoiselle Guilbert tasted the full sweetness 
of her fame. She was asked to sing at a benefit 
matinee, but declined for some purely personal reason. 
With her refusal, however, she sent a princely cheque 
of five hundred francs. This the beneficiary declined, 
persisting in a demand for the actual appearance 
of Yvette, upon whom, she declared, the whole success 
of the matinee depended. Thus importuned. Made- 
moiselle Guilbert gave way. She came, she conquered ! 
What a pleasure she must have experienced on re- 
turning in triumph to this same stage (the Varietes), 
where five years before she was ekeing out a meagre 
pittance in playing small parts. She was received 
with almost delirious applause ! " 

What a contrast to that other picture ! And how 
small the prophets of failure must have felt ! But 
this is anticipating matters a good deal, and we must 
return to the moment when Yvette Guilbert, sick 
at heart with her non-success as an actress, was 
courageously seeking an engagement as a singer. 

Fortune favoured her at first. She managed to 
persuade Madame Allemand, the manageress of the 
Eldorado, to give her an audition. She came out 
of the theatre with a three years' engagement at 600 
francs a month in her pocket. Delighted with her 
good fortune she hastened home to tell her mother 
the good news. But alas ! as her mother at once 
pointed out, with tears in her eyes, how could she 


possibly take an engagement elsewhere when she 
would have to pay a forfeit of some ten thousand 
:^rancs to the Varietes ? That was a thing she had 
never thought of. 

However, through the intervention of some of her 
friends, she managed to persuade the manager of 
the Varietes to release her from her engagement. She 
was not due to appear at the Eldorado till September, 
and in the meanwhile, by way of a preliminary canter, 
she took a short engagement at Lyons. There the 
predictions of her friends and relations seemed verified ; 
she was met with a storm of hisses and groans, and 
her engagement terminated abruptly. She returned 
to Paris in tears. 

Her debut at the Eldorado was scarcely more 
successful. At the end of three weeks, on protesting 
at being put on at eight o'clock before the general 
public had arrived, she was offered one of the two 
alternatives, either to accept 300 francs a month, 
instead of 600, or else to leave. Yvette left, calmly 
declaring that she would never set foot inside the 
Eldorado again until they offered her for a single 
night the 600 francs which they had refused her per 
month ! Ironical surprise on the part of the manage- 
ment ! But the fact remains that two and a half 
years afterwards Madame Allemand came round to 
Yvette's house to beg her to join her company. The 
latter, no doubt thoroughly enjoying the situation, 
jokingly reminded the manageress of the vow she had 
made on quitting the Eldorado, and was promptly 
engaged on her own terms. 


Her next engagement, after the fiasco at the 
Eldorado, was at the Eden, where she was formally 
forbidden to sing the very songs which, five months 
afterwards, were to make her reputation. Her 
success was, in consequence, only moderate ; but in 
the following year she scored her first real triumph, 
at Liege. " I had," she said on one occasion when 
speaking of this, " for the first time sung what I 
wanted and how I wanted without interference." 

The recollection of this, her first real success as 
a singer, lingered long in Yvette Guilbert's memory ; 
and on her return visit to Liege, two years later, she 
penned the following characteristic letter to M. Victor 
Raskin, the manager of the Pavilion de Flore, the 
scene of her victorious debut : — 

"A. M. Victor Raskin. 

"4 December 1893. 

" My dear Raskin, — I haste to convey to you, 
before I come to Liege, the very great pleasure it 
gives me to think that I am to appear there once 
more. Honestly, I have retained so vivid and so 
grateful a recollection of my first appearance at the 
Pavilion de Flore, that I am most happy at the 
prospect of revisiting your dehghtful town and its 
inhabitants, who gave me confidence in the future 
of my career by their generous applause. And my 
old friends of yesterday, shall I find them still the 
same ? Or will they hesitate to hold out the hand 
of welcome just because to-day, forsooth, I am 
a ' star ' ? 



(From ail ciuiuicl made by tlic faiiiotis paiuicr, Toiiloufc-Lautyec.) 


" It may be that many of the participators in my 
former success will no longer dare to say : ' Yvette, 
how are you ? ' 

" I sincerely hope thatUrshall find my old comrades 
the same as ever, and that they will not be astonished 
if I fall on their necks and embrace them ! 

" Success is a grand thing. Yes, but friendship is 
a better thing yet ; and I would wish them still to 
retain a tender memory of the ' gawk of a girl ! ' I 
used to be ; and realise that I still am of the company 
of the ' cabotine originale,' as the newspapers say. 

" Do you remember, my old friend Raskin, that 
evening when I heard a piece of verse ' en wallon,' ^ 
and learnt it almost all through by heart ? 

" Liege brought me luck, and gave me courage and 
self-confidence, and I am coming back to it with real 
pleasure and gratitude. 

" Adieu for the present. My kindest remembrances 
to you and all the rest. — Yours sincerely, 

" Yvette." 

Returning to Paris, after her welcome success at 
Liege, she cancelled her engagement with the Eden, 
and appeared at the Concert Parisien, only a little 
while later to tempt fortune once more at the Casino 
de Lyon. Here, where a year before they had 
received her with hisses and cat-calls, and paid her 
a salary of 40 francs a day, they now overwhelmed 
her with applause, and paid her 1200 francs a day for 

* i.e. " in dialect." The Walloons are descendants of the old Gaelic 
Belgae who occupied Flanders, and still have a dialect of their 


singing the self-same songs. A striking comment, 
this, on the strange vicissitudes of fortune which fall 
to the lot of every artist who attempts to gain the 
favour of the pubhc. 

The spark of enthusiasm thus kindled in Lyons 
spread to Paris, where on her return she was welcomed 
with acclamations. But still her friends kept up their 
parrot-cry. " Give up singing and go into comedy ! " 
was the refrain, and that at the very moment when 
she had obtained her first assured success as a singer. 
Luckily for the gaiety of the world at large Yvette 
Guilbert turned a deaf ear to friends and family, and 
kept to the even tenor of her way, now just beginning 
to be smoothed for her by the hand of success. 

At this point, for the last time, we take up once 
more the narrative of M. des Perrieres, in which he 
concludes his study of Yvette Guilbert's career. 

" The world of fashion took her up in due course ; 
the first person who was bold enough to ask her to 
sing at one of her parties was the Princess de Sagan. 
Her example at once began to be followed, and 
Sarrasin's former protegee soon became a recognised 
figure at all fashionable gatherings. Yvette with her 
sprightly English air, her cool demeanour and quiet 
gestures, is the very incarnation of Montmartre. 
Nothing could give her greater pleasure than this 
success, but it has not spoilt her. Quite recently 
her old friend and benefactor, Sarrasin, wrote her a 
letter that was almost tragically laconic. ' I have 
got to pay 1800 francs within the next few days, 
and I haven't a halfpenny.' Yvette didn't need 


asking twice. ' Very well,' she wrote : ' I will sing 
to-morrow at the Divan.' Sarrasin duly received his 
1800 francs, and paid his debt ; and when Yvette 
drove home down the Rue des Martyrs after the 
performance, she received such an ovation that she 
fell back in a corner of the carriage and sobbed. 

" In her private life Yvette is simplicity itself. Her 
success has left her surprised but not over-elated ; 
she is ready any day to see it pass away from her, 
knowing what a fickle thing is fame. Those who were 
her friends in misfortune are her friends still ; far 
from wishing to stifle the memory of her unhappy 
days of poverty she is fond of anyone and anything 
that serves to recall them. 

" At home her correspondence lies scattered about 
on a table ; anyone is at liberty to read it. Some of 
the letters she receives are very amusing. There was 
one I remember from a ' Capitaine de Gendarmerie,' 
who wrote that he had spent a whole night in a railway 
train in order to come and hear her sing. He begged 
her to give him a few minutes' interview. ' You will 
not be bored, I promise you,' he wrote ; ' I shall tell 
you all about my campaigns. I am of a naturally 
lively disposition, although, as a rule, I admit, a 
gendarme is not a very lively person ! ' 

" Another was from a student, expressing his 
devotion. ' Give me but an hour,' he wrote ; ' we 
shall be good friends. You will learn that it is the 
love of a boy of eighteen that I offer you ; and on 
Sunday we can go for a drive.' This letter amused 
Yvette very much. 


" She lives very simply and unaffectedly, with no 
hankerings after luxury. All she looks forward to 
are the fine days when she can be off to the estate 
which she has bought at Vaux, on the banks of the 
Seine. This is the old house of our poor friend Sari, 
the self-same spot whither, as an humble seamstress, 
she used to come in search of sunshine and fresh air, 
and a few hours of happiness." 



The history of Yvette Guilbert's engagements after 
this is one long string of triumphs. She appeared at 
the Eldorado, the Scala, and at the Folies-Bergere, 
for nine successive years under the same management. 
She also sang during the summer for two seasons at the 
Horloge, and for seven seasons at the Ambassadeurs, 
the two theatres in the Champs Ely sees. 

A long and severe illness, during which her life was 
seriously in danger, compelled her to cancel all her 
engagements with the Folies-Bergere and the Am- 
bassadeurs, just at a time when, during the Paris 
Exhibition, visitors from all parts of the world were 
flocking to hear her sing. The daily papers at the 
time were full of letters asking for the latest bulletins, 
and clamouring to know the date of her probable 
reappearance on the stage. But the disease was 
obstinate, and her convalescence unduly prolonged. 
Throughout this long weary struggle between life and 
death Yvette Guilbert displayed a wonderful amount 
of patient endurance. " Life is nothing but a struggle," 
she remarked. " In my young days I struggled for 
a living ; later on I struggled for success, and now, 
when success has come, I am struggling for health." 

But at last her wonderful constitution won the day, 

N I'-'S 


and Yvette, fully restored to health, made her re- 
appearance at the Olympia. The audience gave 
her such an ovation that she was too overwhelmed 
with emotion to sing a note. All she could do was 
to murmur brokenly, " Please forgive me — I cannot — 
I cannot — " and fled from the stage. She said after- 
wards that for the first time in her life her nerve had 
completely failed her. 

All Paris at this time went mad over her ; the 
critics were unanimous in her praise ; Yvette Guilbert 
had come and conquered ! Francis de Nion, writing 
a few years ago, in Le Theatre, gives a vivid account 
of the effect she had on those who heard her about 
this time. He says : 

" Artists, ordinary middle-class people, and even 
the working-class, realised that they had before them 
something different to the average singer of sticky 
and tearful sentiment. The spirit of song, and song 
of a peculiar kind, sometimes dismal, sometimes gay, 
but always cruel and fierce, and often bitterly tender — 
the song of Montmartre, in fact, to give it its right 
name — had become a thing incarnate in that slender 
body, had taken shape on those tightly-drawn lips, 
and in that voice at once indifferent and passionate, 
attractive and bizarre. The rumour of this new 
birth was spread abroad ; critics — those of them at 
least who had the leisure to wander afield outside the 
classic haunts in search of copy for their paper — came 
to hear her, and went away possessed ! " 

Sarcey wrote : " We love her because she is as 
fine as amber and sparkles with roguery and wit." 


Jules Lemaitre : " The new diva has just the right 
touch in interpreting her medley of delicate fantasies. 
Her special characteristic is that she knows what to 
say and how to say it." Max Nordau declared without 
sarcasm that " formerly the first thing a foreigner 
did when he came to Paris was to visit the Louvre and 
Notre Dame ; now his only thought is to go and see 
Yvette Guilbert ! " 

Meanwhile Andre Corneau in " Le Jour " had also 
added his meed of praise. " She is a curious woman 
of a rare originality, with the art of maintaining just 
the right level without ever descending to the common- 
place. Will they leave her to scintillate in the smoky 
atmosphere of the Cafes Concerts, or will they try 
to make use in the theatre of her undeniable qualities 
of elocution, and her wonderful imagination ? Is she 
only a fugitive meteor which will return into outer 
darkness after blazing for a brief moment ? Is 
Yvette Guilbert the future star of light opera, a star 
of a new kind, the want of which is so urgently felt ? 
Such are the questions, and many others, which one 
asks oneself, and dare not undertake to answer. 
Meanwhile she is somebody to be reckoned with. 
Among all the mediocrities of the day Yvette Guilbert 
brings with her a new and absolutely individual note. 
Her talent, which is dehghtfully fresh, shows up in 
a worse Hght than ever the pitiable sameness of the 
average performances on the music-hall stage. 
Parisians who are not above indulging in a hearty 
laugh or two would do well to take this opportunity 
of hearing a singer who is nothing if not original." 


, And once more, Parisis in " Le Figaro " : " And 
now here comes Yvette Guilbert, Queen of Singers, 
the pet of Paris, as was Theresa under the second 
Empire. Her voice is ringing, and altogether fascinat- 
ing, her gestures are made with her nose, her throat, 
her head, every part of her, in fact. She obtains 
irresistible effects with a single movement. Her 
mask never slips from her ; her exquisite art makes 
even this monotony full of character. The more 
immovable she is, the more full of variety she seems." 
The same writer goes on to relate how Albert 
Millaud, listening to the singer one night, dashed off an 
impromptu verse about her, and proceeds to quote it : 

C'est une divette adorable, 
De charme son etre est rempli ; 
Yvette a la beaute du diable — 
Alors, le diable est bien joli ! 

EUe est d'line verve incroyable, 
Dans tous les propos qu'elle dit ; 
EUe a., dit-on, I'esprit du diable — 
I.e diable a done beaucoup d'esprit ! 

Qui I'entend — destin effroyable — 
A I'aimer se sent entraine ; 
Or, si Guilbert a tout du diable, 
Voila tout le monde damne, 

Which, if one should be tempted into giving a free 
translation, might be rendered somewhat as follows : 

She's too adorable for speech, 

Her charm no written word could teach ; 

As beautiful as the devil is she — 

What a good-looking fellow the devil must be ! 


She's full of verve as an egg of meat, 
Her style's immense, her humour neat ; 
The wit of the devil, they say, has she — 
What a witty fellow the devil must be ! 

Go, see her for yourself, and then 
You'll fall in love like other men ; 
For were she the devil himself, you know. 
To the devil we'd all of us have to go ! 

Delighted with a particularly appreciative notice 
vi^hich appeared in " L'Etincelle," Yvette wrote to 
the author, M. Dreville, a letter expressing the grati- 
tude she felt. 

" ist February 1891. 

" Dear Sir, — I have just received your deUghtful 
paper, in which, thanks to you, I am the subject 
of certain remarks which simply scintillate ^ with 

" I am overcome, my dear sir, with your entirely 
appreciative article. Permit me to say that you 
must be easy to please, if you are in reality as en- 
thusiastic as you make out. But if you reflect a 
little you will admit that my success and your apprecia- 
tion thereof ought by rights to be divided equally 
between Yvette and her author Xanrof. The in- 
terpreters of the songs get all the applause, which is 
extremely unfair ; since without amusing words to 
sing the applause would be considerably less, believe 

^ It is impossible to reproduce in English this gentle pun upon 
the name of the paper, "L'Etincelle." The actual words in the 
original are, "lignes etincelantes de bienveillance." 


" A thousand thanks for devoting so lengthy an 
article to my unworthy self. I hope your friends, 
the young students and poets, will believe me when 
I say that I shall always be willing to render humble 
assistance whenever the Association needs it. And 
should you yourself, or any of your friends, ever 
condescend to write me some songs suitable to my 
audience at the Cafes Concerts, I need hardly say 
that I shall be only too happy to sing them. 

" Again many thanks. 


But amid all the pseans of praise that were every- 
day being sounded in her honour, there appeared in 
" L'Echo de Paris " an article, clever and cynical, 
by M. Raitif de la Bretonne, which, though at times 
bitterly sarcastic, did more towards establishing 
Yvette Guilbert's reputation than all the laudatory 
epithets that were being constantly showered upon 
her. The article is worth quoting almost in full, 
as much for its originality and wit, as for the shrewd 
criticisms it contains, criticisms that Yvette Guilbert 
can now at this distance look back upon with 

" She is the very latest thing in up-to-date Paris ; 
we shall have the Christmas hawkers selling toy 
models of her soon on the Boulevards. Her fame 
has spread from the Cafe Concert to the street already. 
' Yvette ! Yvette ! ' Her name is in everyone's 

" The enormous poster, so striking to the eye, so 

(An initial Idler (Y) by Charles Uaiidvc.) 


drawn as to give the effect of a ' V ' of white chalky 
flesh in a blaze of light, has been placarded all over 
Paris and made her popular in a month. Now she 
is of the number of those whose names, written in 
little flaming gas jets, scintillate through the heavy 
fogs of the December evenings, a veritable star ! 

" And it seems but yesterday that she was obscure 
and unknown, save to a few night-revellers, stranded 
in an idle moment at Montmartre, this j\Iontmartre 
which has made her what she is, cadaverous and 
intensely modem, with a sort of bitter and deadly 
modernity which she must have acquired at the 
Chat Noir — oh, songs of Xanrof ! 

" Has she talent, you may ask ? Sometimes, 
yes. Beauty ? No ! She is not exactly beautiful, 
nor exactly the reverse ; but just that happy 
medium by which ugly women are content to be 
described. One thing must be granted her, she has 
an exquisite profile ! 

" She is long, oh, so long ! and thin, oh, so thin ! 
Her chest is of a chalky whiteness, and her figure 
slightly rounded ; but she has no throat to spealc of, 
and her chest is quite extraordinarily narrow. Long, 
too long, thin arms, clad in high black gloves, that 
look like flimsy scarves ; with a bodice that always 
seems about to slip off her shoulders, give her an 
appearance, especially as regards her waist and neck, 
like that of Madame Gauthereau, whose rather clumsy 
carriage and fondness for short bodices she deliberately 
exaggerates. On this body at once stylish and 
languishing, after the fashion of society women, and 


as little like the style of the Cafes Concerts as can be, 
is set a small irregular head with a blunt nose, large 
mouth, and little gimlet eyes outrageously darkened 
with kolk juice. But she has a fine forehead, which 
is an exquisite oval surmounted with a delightful 
head of hair, waved in fair red curls, which near the 
neck are almost golden. 

" There is something about her, in fact, that is 
disturbing, peculiar and very individual — I am speak- 
ing of her profile. 

" Her enunciation is clean-cut and precise ; words 
and sentences emerge from her carmined lips with a 
wonderful clearness, as though cut out with scissors. 
She has no voice, but very quaint intonations, and 
skilful inflections, borrowed from Demay, from Paulus, 
and even from Theresa. Her diction is the least 
original part about her. The great originality of 
this very modern singer lies in her almost rigid 
immobility ; the * English ' appearance of her long 
thin over-grown body, and the absence of gestures, 
which is in strong contrast to the almost diabolical 
rolling of her eyes, and the grimaces and contortions 
of her bloodless face. 

" How charming a first impression one gets of this 
fashionable star at the Martyrs or the Divan Japonais. 

" Her repertoire is a very unfamiliar one, consist- 
ing of such songs as ' Le Fiacre,' ' De Profundis,' 
' Heloise et Abelard,' ' La Promenade des Potaches,' 
all the facile and ' chat-noiresque ' verse of Xanrof. 
Or else foolish naughty ditties like ' Le Petit Rigolo ' 
— fie, mademoiselle ! — or stupid songs like the one 


about Cleopatra, an inanity quite unworthy of the 
great artist you aspire to be, Yvette. To sing songs 
like this is to cast pearls before swine, and you, made- 
moiselle, are the pearl. 

" However, needless to say, she is the vogue, she 
fills every seat in the house, does this long thin Yvette 
Guilbert. And on the evenings when she is singing 
you will see the boxes filled with women who have 
enormous earings and dyed hair, and you will see 
the pit filled with companies of butcher boys in their 
shirt blouses. From the latter she receives badly- 
spelt letters on flowered note-paper ; from the others, 
the women with red hair and pale cheeks, symbolical 
bouquets of orchids." 

In January 1891 Yvette Guilbert sat for her bust 
to Edouard Lormier, the sculptor. M. Hugues de le 
Roux, who was present at the first sitting, thus des- 
cribes the scene : 

" At last the model was in position, and I watched 
eagerly. For the last week I had been seeking 
for some definition to explain the personality and 
genius of Mademoiselle Yvette, and had been quite 
unable to evolve one. I thought to myself : ' Surely 
this sculptor wUl help me to formulate my im- 
pressions by giving me an insight into his own ! ' 
That is just what happened. Having taken the 
measurements with his compasses, and prepared his 
clay, M. Lormier stepped backwards a pace or two, 
took a long look at his model, and then plunged his 
hands feverishly into the clay. 

" Sculptors are so trained and educated in classical 


lore that when they are confronted with a model for 
a bust they are always searching for some hidden 
prototype of which the model may be said to be a 
human reflection. It was only a few minutes before 
we saw evolving from the sticky mass of clay, though 
vague and undefined, and half -veiled, as it seemed, 
the chaste countenance of Diana. 

" Here then was the patron goddess of our little 
singer, our Yvette of the Concert Parisien, this ultra- 
modern child of old Paris. And, now one comes to 
think of it, was not Diana the " ingenue " of Olympus, 
the maid who fled in terror from her suitors, the 
patroness of all young girls who want to be delivered 
from undesirable Actseons ? There it all was, the 
same long neck, as graceful as a swan's, the same pure 
wide forehead, the aureole of hair ; nothing was 
lacking but the crescent. 

" M. Lormier went on working. All at once I 
uttered an exclamation ; Diana had disappeared. 
Having got the general idea the artist now began 
to work in the details of the model's own personality. 
The portrait grew under his fingers, at times becoming 
almost a caricature for a moment or two while some 
dominant feature or other was being given undue 
prominence, but in time combining the expression 
of every feature into one harmonious whole, which 
became the laughing countenance of a young faun, 
every bit as life-like a portrait of Yvette as Diana 
had been. 

" Then I took the sculptor by the hand, and con- 
gratulated him. ' My dear M. Lormier.' I said, 


' you have at last illuminated the darkness in which 
I was groping. Without a word, with only the aid 
of your fingers and a lump of clay, you have given 
me a definition of this undeiinable and delightful 
state of mind which, for the want of a better name, 
we call ingenuousness. There you have it. In its 
fundamental essentials it possesses the maiden purity 
of Diana ; incidentally it has also something of the 
nature of the laughing faun, with a desire to love and 
be loved. And between these two extremes lies a 
delightful medium, an exquisite Eden, a Paradise to 
be lost, round which mankind will throng in adulation. 
It is, in a word, the kingdom of Yvette Guilbert.' " 

She was by this time the recognised star of the 
Cafes Concerts in Paris. There were many who said 
that she was wasting her talents in confining herself 
to the atmosphere of the music hall ; others who 
prophesied that the music hall would not be able to 
keep her for long ; that genius such as hers must in 
due course find its vent in other and more elevated 
spheres. In England the theatre and the music 
hall are every year being brought more into line with 
one another, and the gulf between them was never 
after all an insuperably wide one. But in Paris the 
Cafes Concerts possess an atmosphere that is all their 
own, and at the time when Yvette Guilbert was their 
reigning star they were something quite distinct and 
apart, and as far removed from the atmosphere of 
the regular theatre as could possibly be imagined. 
In order to gain an adequate idea of the surroundings 
in which Yvette Guilbert won her way to fame, and 


of the audiences to whom her art must be made to 
appeal, we cannot do better than turn to the descrip- 
tion of the Cafes Concerts, as they were some eighteen 
or nineteen years ago, which was given by M. Emile 
Blemont in " L'Evenement " in February 1891. 

" There are," he says," two pubHcs, different and 
totally distinct from one another in the Cafes Concerts. 
On the one hand you will find the masses, a trifle 
heavy, a trifle slow, but simple-minded, sympathetic 
and generous. This public is composed of the 
loyal and steady workers in life, who come here for 
rest after their daily toil, and to get, without much 
trouble, a certain amount of cheap, but perfectly 
honest amusement. 

" These people have an ideal of amusement which 
is as simple as their own natures, they have certain 
general ideas on the subject implanted in their minds, 
and, provided that these ideas are catered for, accord- 
ing to the fashion of the moment, with something 
not too complicated, they don't bother. They remain 
faithful to the old traditional form of song, cast in 
the ancient mould, with its four fatuous verses, one 
verse for wine, one for women, one political, and one 
in praise of God and country. 

" On the other hand, in these by no means un- 
picturesque places of amusement, where one can 
smoke and drink and chat in comfort to the accompani- 
ment of music, you will find another public which is, 
in some respects, more highly cultivated. They 
are the rakes, the ' declasses ' of literature or trade, 
forming the bohemia of the more well-to-do middle 

A posti;r bv k. hac. 


class ; free lances most of them in their particular 
professions of trade or art. This public is blase, 
subtle, whimsical ; prone to sudden exhibitions 
of feeling, and savage pleasantries ; a public that has 
run through the whole gamut of emotions, and is 
always looking for some new sensation. 

" These two publics side by side form a strange 
combination, a heterogeneous assembly where two 
entirely different classes sit close together but never 
intermingle. In such surroundings it is the popular 
element that counts with its desire for easy patriotism 
and banal sentiment. In other places the bohemian 
element is paramount, and there the cry is all for 
realism, and heavily-pointed satire. Moreover as 
soon as anyone becomes a declared success, and a 
new ' discovery ' is announced by the press, and 
proclaimed by the posters, all grades of Parisian life 
flock to the spot out of curiosity in order to see the 
latest sensation." 

How was it, then, that Yvette Guilbert managed 
to conquer in a sphere so composite and so curious, 
and what sort of songs could she find to suit so diversi- 
fied an audience ? It follows naturally that such 
songs, to find favour, could not be entirely free of 
the element which we are apt to define as " riskiness." 
But the extraordinary part of her success with these 
audiences is that while she could not omit this element 
altogether from her songs, she appears to have de- 
livered them with so much naivete and innocence, 
that she delighted the fastidious as much as she 
pleased those who were only used to, and indeed 


preferred, the indecencies of the average music hall 
singer of that day. 

Perhaps the explanation lies partly in the nature 
of the songs themselves ; and she was fortunate 
indeed in finding exactly the right medium for the 
expression of her art at exactly the right moment. 
But more than in anything it lies in the individuality 
of the artist, and Yvette Guilbert was able to do with 
these songs what another, with less genius and origin- 
ality, could never have done, and to raise the grosser 
part of her audience to the high level of her own art. 

This question has been very aptly dealt with by 
Henry Bauer. Writing in " L'Echo de Paris " in 
December 1891 he says : 

" Between the song of inane depravity, which 
reigns supreme in the Cafe Concert, and the artistic 
picturesque and powerful verses of Jules Jouy and 
Bruant, there is now a middle kind equally acceptable 
to music-hall audiences ; action songs of delicate 
fancy, pointed without being ill-natured, and not 
broad enough to be unpleasant. This class of song 
has its own particular bard, whose name is Fourneau, 
or in Latin Fornax, whence by anagram, Xanrof. 
His songs of Paris retain all the atmosphere of the 
cafes on the left bank of the Seine, those nightly- 
gathering places of the Perigord and Limousin students, 
depicting an atmosphere that is made up of the silly 
laughter, broad provincial humour, and the prankish- 
ness of the average medical student, with just a thin 
coating of ' parisianism ' acquired by reading the 
daily papers. 


" On the scenario of these songs, and others hke 
them, Mdlle. Guilbert has built up by her own in- 
dividual genius the fabric of her art. With the aid 
of a natural taint of morbidity, a nervous energy 
that every now and then drops into languor, a manifest 
and palpable weariness of herself and audience, and 
with an astonishing amount of physical energy, she 
has been able to mirror for the public all its own little 
failings and weaknesses, and the public in return has 
taken her to its heart and made her its own, its very 
own Yvette." 

But Yvette Guilbert, as many had already pro- 
phesied, was not to remain for ever in the sphere of 
the Cafe Concert. Fashionable Paris wished to 
hear her, and fashionable Paris could not frequent 
the Cafe Concert. And so, through the medium 
of M. Hugues de la Roux, she made an appearance 
at the Theatre d'x\pplication in the Rue Saint-Lazare, 
and all Paris, especially feminine Paris, was there. 
M. de la Roux presented the singer to the audience, 
and begged the ladies present not to be shocked ! 
Whether shocked or not — no doubt they expected to 
be, for was not this new singer already the pet of the 
Cafes Concerts ? — the fact remains that they applauded 
her vigorously ; and from that moment she became 
as prime a favourite with the fashionable Parisians 
as she already was wdth the inhabitants of Montmartre. 

Yes, undoubtedly, Yvette Guilbert had " arrived." 
Henceforth for her there was to be no looking back ; 
and, in 1894, having taken her native country by 
storm, she set out in search of new worlds to conquer. 



During Yvette Guilbert's severe illness, to which 
reference has been made in the previous chapter, a 
kindly thought suggested the collection of autograph 
letters from eminent contemporary writers giving 
their opinions on her art. This collection was pre- 
sented to her on her recovery, and forms one of her 
most cherished possessions in connection with her 
artistic career ; not only on account of the high 
literary standing of the writers, but also because of 
the kindly sentiment expressed in the letters them- 

Some of these letters are reproduced below, and if 
any further proofs were needed of Yvette Guilbert's 
arrival in the halls of fame, these letters, signed as 
they are by such writers as Zola, Pierre Loti, Alphonse 
Daudet, and others, should certainly supply them. 

From Edmond de Goncourt. 

" Maintenant chez Yvette Guilbert c'est dans une 
animation enfievre du corps, une vivacite de paroles 
tout a fait amusante. . . . 

" Ce qu'il y a d'original dans sa verve blagueuse, 
c'est que sa blague moderne est emaillee d'epithetes 



de poetes symboliques et decadents, d'expressions 
archaiques, et de vieux verbes, remis en vigueur : un 
melimelo, un pot-pourri de parisienismes de I'heure 
pr^sente, et de Fantique langue facetieuse de Panurge. 
" Et la soiree se termine par La Soularde ; la Soularde 
ou la diseuse de chansonnettes se revele comme une 
grande, une tres grande actrice tragique, vous mettant 
au coeur une constriction angoisseuse." 

Edmond de Goncourt. 

" With Yvette Guilbert the secret lies in an almost 
feverish animation of body, and a quite amusing 
vivacity of speech. 

" What is so original about her humour is the fact 
that, while essentially modern in spirit, it is often 
expressed in the language of old-world poets, full of 
archaic idioms and old-fashioned words brought back 
to life, the whole forming a sort of pot-pourri made up 
of present-day Parisianisms and a sprinkling of old- 
fashioned witticisms after the style of Panurge. 

" And her performance concludes with ' La Soularde ' ; 
that song in which this singer of chansonnettes reveals 
herself as a great, a very great, actress of tragedy by 
an interpretation which thrills you to the very soul." 


From Alphonse Daudet. 

"Si j'en avals le loisir, si j'en avais le courage, et 
si, et si, je voudrais ecrire pour cette Yvette Guilbert 
dont le merveilleux talent s'etrique en des inepties 
boulevardieres, un drame lyrique, moitie mime, 
moitie chante, tire des tragiques annales de I'lrlande 
ou de la Commune. La voyez-vous en petroleuse 
on en feniane ? Ce corps long et souple, cette face 
toute bleme et suante de Wisky ou d' eau-de-vie 
blanche, et les rauquements de cette voix, si 
douloureusement passionnee ; ou encore, a bord de 
quelque chaland, pendant ces dures saisons de secher- 
esse, et de chomage que les mariniers de la Seine ap- 
pellent I'affameur, imaginez au milieu de sa marmaille 
une femme de la Catellerie, attendant son homme, 
qui chante et se soCile dans un mastroquet du bord de 
de I'eau. Je songeais a tout cela en entendant I'autre 
soir cette delicieuse Yvette chanter je ne sais quelle 
niaiserie avec des yeux, des gestes, une expression ! ! ! " 

Alphonse Daudet. 

" If only I had the leisure, if only I had the courage, 
if and if and if — I would write for this Yvette Guilbert, 
whose marvellous talent is at present being wasted 
on the inanities of the Boulevards, a lyrical drama, 
to be half acted, half sung, drawn from the tragic 
annals of Ireland or the Commune. What a fine 
' petroleuse ' or Fenian she would make, with that 
long supple body of hers, that sallow perspiring face 


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of the colour of whisky or pale brandy, and that 
hoarse voice, with its note of passion and grief. Or 
picture her on board a barge during the bad seasons 
of drought and enforced idleness which the Seine 
boatmen call the * Starving Season,' a woman of the 
Catellerie, with her brats round her, waiting for her 
husband, who is at that moment engaged in singing 
and drinking himself blind in a wine-shop on the 
river bank. I thought of all this the other night, while 
listening to that delicious Yvette singing some nonsense 
or other, with — such eyes ! such gestures, such 
expression ! " 


From Paul Hervieu. 

" Je ne crois pas qu'il faille s'etonner que Mile. 
Yvette Guilbert puisse se montrer si tragique — etant 
si comique — ; mais, au contraire, qu'elle puisse se 
montrer si comique, etant si tragique. 

" Car, a mon sentiment, c'est avant tout une tra- 
gedienne, une grande tragedienne, avec sa stature 
etrangement harmonieuse, son visage masque de 
paleur, ses yeux brusques, son geste qui, par des 
allures presque desobeissantes, prend les caracteres 
de la fatalite. 

" Aussi, quand il ne s'agit, pour Mile. Yvette Guilbert, 
que de faire rire, son art dedaigneux et sur consiste 
peut-^tre surtout dans le contraste entre I'intention 
des legeres paroles qu'eUe chante, et la gravite de 
ses moyens d'expression ! EUe dresse sur la foule 
une longue encolure de prophetesse aux ecoutes, dont 
les bras sont plonges jusqu'aux coudes dans le deuil 
de ses gants noirs ; et tandis que sa voix enfonce 
alors, en nous, les mots grivois ou drolatiques, et les 
sons joyeux, comme avec un rude marteau fantas- 
tique, I'artiste nous impose tantot le drame de son 
immobilite, et tantot, dans ses mouvements de torse 
ou de physionomie, des arrets macabres." 

Paul Hervieu. 

" I do not think that one should be astonished at 
the fact that Mile. Yvette Guilbert should be able 
to appear so much of a tragedian, when she is so 

C^^ t!^P^ yfiits*^^^ CTPn^^rvL ^i.^ *t^ 2«<,y^ ,-V7 


great a comedian — on the contrary, the real wonder 
is that she should be so much of a comedian, when 
one considers what a tragedian she really is. 

" For, to my mind, she is a tragedian, and a great 
tragedian, first and foremost. She has the very 
stature for it, the pale immobile face, the piercing 
eyes ; while her gestures, by their very awkwardness, 
seem to convey an atmosphere of fatality. 

" Moreover, even when she is only occupied in singing 
humorous songs, the spell of her art, an art that is 
at once careless and sure, lies, more than in anything 
else, perhaps, in the contrast between the gravity 
of her methods of expression and the light character 
of the words themselves. She stands before the 
audience like a watchful prophetess, whose arms are 
clothed to the elbow in gloomy black gloves ; and all 
the while her voice is beating into our heads, as though 
with a rough fantastic hammer, the words of her 
light and merry ditties, the artist herself at one moment 
by her dramatic immobility, at another by her gestures 
and her facial expression, is giving us the impression 
of the most sinister tragedy." 


From Emile Zola. 

" C'est a la fin d'une soiree chez Charpentier que 
j'ai entendu Yvette. It etait tard deja, et jusqu'a 
deux heures elle nous a tenus dans une grande emotion. 
Je crois bien qu'elle nous a chante a la file les meilleures 
chansons de son repertoire, sans un arret, avec une 
verve, un desir passionne d'etre admiree et aimee. 
Et tout le monde s'est evoque, a moitie reel, a moitie 
fantasque, d'un exces dans le caractere qui est Tart 
tout entier. Jamais je n'ai mieux compris qu'une 
artiste n'est qu'une nature qui s'exalte et se donne. 

Emile Zola. 

" It was at the end of an evening entertainment at 
Charpentier 's house that I heard Yvette, It was 
already late, and she kept us aU spell-bound till two 
in the morning. I believe she sang us all the best 
songs in her repertoire one after the other without 
stopping, with a wonderful amount of ' verve ' and 
a passionate desire to please. Quite another world 
was conjured up for us, a world half real, half fantastic, 
with just that amount of caricature which is the 
whole secret of art. I had never before realised 
so well, that art, in the hands of a great artist, is 
only the reflection of nature in an exalted and slightly 
exaggerated form." 

(\Mii <cu^« ^^a^tVi. . -lAcA. Ji^'iC/x /JJi/t^4J* ^'^'^'^ 



From Marcel Pr£vost. 

" Tout est dit sur Mme. Yvette Guilbert, depuis 
le temps qu'elle a des auditeurs illustres, et qui 
ecrivent sur son album. Done, je louerai surtout son 
temperament de lutteuse pour la gloire, qui vaut 
une admiration singuliere. Fut-elle assez discutee, 
diminuee, niee, cette Yvette ! A chaque rentree, 
combien la guetterent, qui comptaient cette fois 
' avoir sa peau ' — sa jolie peau au grain de soie, . . . 
Or, chaque fois, elle s'est defendue ; elle a montre, 
comme rageusement, un art plus inattendu, plus 
haut, plus mur. Hier encore, avec Rosa la Rouge, 
elle nous donnait, d'elle, un nouveau frisson. 

" Cette conscience du mieux-faire, cette rage de 
I'effort artistique, de grands ecrivains les ont illustrees : 
mais elles sont rares, trop rares au theatre. 

" Mile. Yvette Guilbert est un grand exemple 

Marcel Pr£vost. 

" Almost everything possible has been said about 
Mme. Yvette Guilbert since she first performed 
to illustrious auditors, who have all written down 
their impressions for her. I shall therefore confine 
myself chiefly to praising the persistency with which 
she has striven for success, which is worthy of all 
admiration. Could anyone have been more dis- 
cussed, belittled, scouted, than Yvette has been at 
one time or another ? How many people at each 

^ ^f/IM .^<t*-C-^<.«-Ci 



appearance have been on the watch, thinking that 
this time at any rate they would have her skin,^ her 
beautiful satin-like skin. But every time she has 
emerged triumphantly from the ordeal, displaying, 
as though in revenge for these expectations, an art 
more astonishingly advanced and mature than ever. 

" Only yesterday, with her ' Rosa La Rouge,' she 
gave us all a fresh sensation. 

" This conscientious desire for improvement, and 
this passion for fresh artistic effort, are qualities 
which have already been referred to by well-known 
writers ; but they are rare, all too rare, in the history 
of the stage. 

" Mile. Yvette Guilbert sets a splendid moral 
example in this respect." 

^ "Avoir sa peau," ie. " to catch her tripping." 


From Pierre Loti. 

" Tout le monde admet qu'Yvette est adorablement 
drole. Mais on ignore en general quelle autre artiste 
exquise elle pent devenir quand elle chante des choses 
melancoliques. Un jour que nous etions seuls chez 
elle, au piano, elle m'a fait frissonner en interpretant 
a sa maniere ' TAutonime ' de RoUinat et je ne sais 
plus quelle vieille etrangete de Ronsard. . . . 

" Je la remercie pour cela, plus encore que pour 
les bons moments de fou rire que je lui dois. 

" Et je suis son admirateur." 

Pierre Loti. 

" Everyone admits that Yvette is adorably droll. 
But most people overlook the fact that there is another 
artist in her, the exquisite singer of sad songs. One 
day when we were alone together at her house, she 
sat down at the piano and made my flesh creep with 
her rendering of Rollinat's ' L'Automne,' and after 
that of some weird poem of Ronsard's, which I cannot 
now recall. 

" I owe her even more gratitude for that than for 
all the moments of hearty laughter she has given me. 

" And I remain her humble admirer." 

*y>y^ ^jLf\A^Mu*Jl~ i^iudilljoe- aUAAM^i- ^ aJiA/tyrix— ^e^KJ^ vuLCt^ 





From Octave Mirbeau. 

" Parbleu ! Je sais bien ce que c'est que la chanson. 
Avec les autres ce n'est rien, le plus souvent, que 
de d^courageantes inepties. Mais avec Mile. Yvette 
Guilbert ! . . . C'est un drame frisonnant, la saisis- 
sante evocation d'une type, d'un etat social — ou d'un 
6tat d'esprit . . . de la douleur comique ou du fou 
rire qui fait pleurer . . . quelque chose enfin qui 
entre avec elle dans I'art et dans I'emotion humaine. 

" J 'admire meme qu'avec den il n'y ait pas d'exemple 
qu'elle n'ait su creer quelque chose d'exceptionnel 
et de caracteristique, suppleant par sa propre imagina- 
tion, par son invention a elle a I'indigence du texte 
chansonnier, devenu, heureusement, inutile . , . et 

" Mais ce n'est pas assez, quoique cela soit beaucoup. 
Avec ses dons merveilleux d'intelligence, de com- 
position, d'expression, de gout, de mouvement et de 
voix, qui font de Mile. Yvette Guilbert, dans n'importe 
quoi, une artiste si originale, si vibrante et mordante, 
parfois, si 6trangement tragique, et si tragiquement 
comique, ce serait un de mes plus vifs regrets, qu'elle 
ne les apportat pas, dans un grand role, au theatre. . . . 

" On demande pour Mile. Yvette Guilbert, un 
moderne Shakespeare." 

Octave Mirbeau. 

" Heavens ! I know what ' singing ' is as a rule. 
With man}^ artists it is only an excuse for bawling 


out silly inanities. But with MUe. Yvette Guilbert 
it is quite another matter ! With her a song becomes 
a blood-curdling drama ; a startling presentment 
of a type, either of society, or of a mental state, in 
which she imparts an element of comedy to the pathetic 
and a touch of pathos even to the broadly comic — 
an individual touch, in short, which she brings to 
bear upon all the phases of her art, and her inter- 
pretation of human emotions. 

" I admire, too, the way in which she never fails to 
create out of nothing, as it were, something out-of- 
the-ordinary, and eminently characteristic ; enriching 
by her own powers of imagination and genius the 
inherent poverty of her material ; so that the song 
itself becomes almost of no importance in the pleasure 
which her rendering of it gives. 

" But this is not enough, although it is a good deal, 
I admit. With her wonderful intelligence, her qualities 
of emotion and expression, and her good taste, the 
charm of her movements and her voice, all those 
attributes, in fact, which combine to make MUe. 
Yvette Guilbert in anything she undertakes so original, 
so striking, and so incisive an artist, sometimes so 
weirdly tragic and so tragically humorous, I should 
consider it a matter for sincere regret if she should 
never be persuaded to exploit them in some big 
part on the legitimate stage. . . . 

" What is wanted for MUe. Guilbert is a modern 


From Henri Lav£dan. 

" Yvette Guilbert est une affiche, qui parle, qui 
chante, qui remue, mais une affiche, une grande 
affiche macabre et insolente qui fait froid dans le dos. 
Je pense toujours, en la voyant et en I'entendant, a 
quelque troublant automatie, a une dame en cire 
d'Edgard Poe qui aurait un phonographe dans le 
ventre. Est-elle en vie ? Je n'en pas plus sur 
que 9a. 

" C'est la Rose Caron du cafe concert." 

Henri Lavedan. 

" Yvette Guilbert is a poster, which speaks and sings 
and moves, but still a poster, a big ghastly impudent 
poster which sends a shiver down your back. I am 
always reminded, when I see and hear her, of Edgar 
Allen Poe's woman in wax with a phonograph inside 
it. Is she really alive ? Well, I cannot say any 
more than that. 

" She is the Rose Caron of the Cafe Concert." 


From Jean Richepin. 

" Qii'elle chante du bon, du mauvais, ou du mediocre, 
cela n'a aucune importance. Le texte, paroles et 
musique, n'est ici en effet qu'un pretexte, pour elle, 
a commentaires, pour vous, a evocations. Commen- 
taires et evocations uniqiiement crees par elle, son 
geste, sa physionomie, sa voix. Et avec une puissance 
de suggestion d'autant plus magique et inattendue, 
que c'est son geste qui parle, sa physionomie qui 
vocalise, et sa voix qui gesticule ! Ecoutez-la 
plutot en vous bouchant les yeux, ou regardez-la en 
vous bouchant les oreilles ! II semble alors que les 
aveugles doivent la voir en I'entendant, et les sourds 
I'entendre en la voyant. Ce qui est, j'en suis sur." 

" — Mais cette Yvette est done une artiste 
miraculeuse ? 

" — N'en doutez-pas." 

Jean Richepin, 

" Whether the song she is singing is good, bad, or 
indifferent, this in itself makes no difference. The 
song, both as regards words and music, is, in fact, 
simply a pretext on which to hang, for her, her 
observations, for you, your impressions. Both ob- 
servations and impressions are created solely by 
her, by her gestures, her facial expression, and her 
voice. And her power of suggestion is all the more 
wonderful and unexpected from the fact that it is 
her gestures that do the speaking, her facial expression 

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the singing, and her voice the gesticulation. You 
should shut your eyes when you are listening to her, 
or cover up your ears when you are watching her ! 
Thus it would seem that the blind would be able 
to see her by listening to her, the deaf hear her by 
simply looking at her. And that, I believe, is actually 
the case. 

" ' This Yvette must be a wonderful artist, you will 

" * She is — there isn't a doubt of it.' " 

From Catulle Mendes 

" Yvette, non seulement par genie naturel, mais 
aussi par une volonte achamee, par un travail dont 
la tenacite et la minutie ont de quoi stupeiier, finit 
par donner quelque chose qui ressemble a du charme, 
a de I'emotion, aux bassesses du cafe-concert. 

" Que d'art deplorablement employe ! Mais I'artiste 
est extraordinaire." 

Catulle Mendes. 

" Yvette, not only by her natural genius, but also 
by her indomitable strength of will, her astounding 
capacity for work and passion for detail, has succeeded 
in imparting something, which very nearly resembles 
charm and genuine emotion to the gross inanities 
of the Cafe Concert. 

" What a lamentable misuse of her art ! But she 
is a wonderful artist all the same." 


Henri Rochefort's contribution was witty and 
concise, written after Yvette Guilbert's first visit to 
England in 1894. 

" All honour to Yvette Guilbert ! She has found 
a way of making even the English laugh ! " a dry 
reference to the proverbial (according to Continental 
ideas) solemnity of English audiences. 

Francois Coppee expressed in verse his admiration 
for the clearness of her enunciation, which enabled 
her to be heard even above all the din and hubbub 
which is one of the peculiarities of the Cafe Concert. 

Yvette a du genie, oui, dans le genre arsouille, ^ 
Mais un de ses talents, et non le plus petit, 
C'est qu'au cafe-concert, ce monde 011 Ton bafouille, 
On entend tout ce qu'elle dit. 

Francois Coppee. 

M. Jules Troubat, in his recent book, " Saint-Beuve 
et Champfleury," has an interesting account of a 
letter he received from Eugene Baillet, the song writer, 
and secretary of the Eden Concert, quoting a letter 
from Champfleury on the subject of Yvette Guilbert. 

It appears that Baillet and Champfleury had gone 
one night to the Eden Concert, after dining together 
in the Rue Favart. It was on a Friday night, a 
classical night, when one could still hear the songs 
of Beranger, besides those of Xavier, Privas, Deroulede, 
and others. 

" A certain number of the songs pleased Champ- 
fleury very much," wrote Baillet. " But one of the 
artistes attracted his notice particularly, and he 


became quite excited as he gazed at her through his 
eye-glass. ' Oh, what a lovely neck 1 ' he said to me 
ecstatically. ' What a glorious neck ! Who is that 
charming creature ? ' 

" ' Yvette Guilbert; said I. 

" ' Well/ said Champfleury, ' Mademoiselle Yvette 
Guilbert may pride herself on possessing the most 
beautiful neck in the world. It resembles those 
which Celestin Nanteuil used to sketch in his happiest 
moments — truly a most romantic neck ! ' 

" I ought to tell you," added Baillet in his letter, 
" that at that time Yvette Guilbert was not the 
artist with the great reputation whom we have come 
to know since. She was a modest singer, earning 
her 400 francs a month. 

" On this particular night she sang ' Grenadier, 
que tu m'afhges,' and ' La Deesse du Boeuf-gras.' 
I accompanied Champfleury afterwards as far as the 
Louvre, where he caught the tram which took him 
all the way home to Sevres. Four days afterwards 
I received the following letter : — 

* My dear Baillet, — I want you to come to 
lunch next Thursday at twelve ; we shall be having 
a few friends, 

" I have to confess to you that I revisited the Eden 
Concert by myself on Sunday, in order to admire 
once more the lovely neck of Mile. Yvette Guilbert. 
I hope you can read my writing.^ — Sincerely yours, 

' Champfleury.' 

^ Champfleury's writing, says M. Troubat in a footnote, was, as a 
matter of fact, almost unreadable. 


" You see, my dear friend," continued Baillet, 
" that our much-regretted master had his lighter 
moments. As for Yvette, I told her of the admiration 
her neck excited ; she laughed heartily, and asked 
me to introduce her to Champfleury, But the event 
never came off." 

(Ficiii a cdiicatiirc hy /,. CappicUo.) 



In 1894 Yvette Guilbert came to London, and made 
her first appearance at the Empire on Wednesday, 
May 9th, in that year. She sang four songs : — " La 
Promise," " A La Vilette," " Sur le scene," and " La 
Femme a Narcisse." The " Times " of the following 
day, in giving an account of her first appearance, 
says : " The four songs sung last night are fairly rich 
in innuendos, but the effect of this is softened by the 
singer's artless humour, the simplicity of her dress 
and manner, and the limpidity of her enunciation." 

Her appearance at the Empire made a great sensa- 
tion. All London flocked to hear this singer of strange 
songs. It was not to be expected, of course, that 
an English audience should all at once understand 
her. Apart from the natural difficulty of following 
a foreign language, her form of art was something 
so new, so individual, that people were at first a little 
at a loss how to take it. And her songs, too, breathed 
the very spirit of lower-class Paris, the Paris of 
Montmartre and the Quarter, containing much that 
was unintelligible to a London audience. 

But even those who failed to understand completely 
yet felt themselves carried away by the magnificence 
of her genius, and were quick to realise that in Yvette 


Guilbert the world of the Music Hall had gained 
a new star, a star that was utterly unlike anything 
that had ever appeared before in the firmament of 

One of the first critics to recognise this, and to 
give public expression to his sentiments, was Mr 
Bernard Shaw, who, in an article in " The World," 
in May 1894, set the seal of artistic approval on 
Yvette Guilbert's achievement. By the courtesy 
of Mr Shaw, and the proprietors of " The World," 
it has been rendered possible to quote this interesting 
and characteristic appreciation in full. 

" Another great artist has come. I suppose I 
ought to have been quite familiar with her perform- 
ances already when I went to her reception of the 
English Press (musical critics not included) at the 
Savoy Hotel last week ; but as a matter of fact I had 
never been to the Chat Noir ; I have looked at its 
advertisements on the Boulevardes time after time 
without the least conviction that my sense of being 
in the fastest forefront of the life of my age would 
culminate there. To me, going to Paris means going 
back fifty years in civilisation, spending an un- 
comfortable night, and getting away next morning 
as soon as possible. I know, of course, that there 
must be places and circles in Paris which are not 
hopelessly out of date, but I have never found 
them out ; and if I did, what figure could I make 
in them with my one weapon, language, broken in 
my hand ? Hence it is that I had never seen Mdlle, 
Yvette Guilbert when Monsieur Johnson, of the 


' Figaro/ introduced her to a carefully selected 
audience of the wrong people (mostly) at the Savoy 
Hotel as aforesaid. Monsieur Johnson, as a veteran, 
will not feel hurt at any comment which only goes to 
prove that ' the power of beauty he remembers yet ' ; 
therefore I need have no delicacy in saying that the 
remarks which he addressed to the audience by way 
of introducing Mdlle. Guilbert were entirely fatuous 
when his emotion permitted them to be heard. When 
the young lady appeared, it needed only one glance 
to see that here was no mere music-hall star, but one 
of the half-dozen ablest persons in the room. It is 
worth remarking here, that in any society whatever 
of men and women there is always a woman among 
the six cleverest ; and this is why I, who have a 
somewhat extensive experience of work on the com- 
mittees of mixed societies, have been trained to 
recognise the fact that the efficient person in this 
world is occasionally female, though she must not on 
that account be confounded with the ordinary woman 
— or the ordinary man, for that matter — whom one 
does not privately regard as a full-grown, responsible 
individual at all. You do not waste ' homage ' 
on the female efficient person ; you regard her, 
favourably or unfavourably, much as you regard the 
male of the efficient species, except that you have a 
certain special fear of her, based on her freedom from 
that sickliness of conscience, so much deprecated by 
Ibsen, which makes the male the prey of unreal 
scruples ; and you have at times to defend yourself 
against her, or, when she is an ally, to assume her 


fitness for active service of the roughest kinds, in a 
way which horrifies the chivalrous gentlemen of your 
acquaintance, who will not suffer the winds of heaven 
to breathe on a woman's face too harshly lest they 
should disable her in her mission of sewing on buttons. 
In short, your chivalry and gallantry are left useless 
on your hands, unless for small-talk with the feminine 
rank and file, who must be answered according to 
their folly, just like the male rank and file. But then 
you get on much better with the female master- 
spirits, who will not stand chivalry, or gallantry, or 
any other form of manly patronage. Therefore let 
others, who have not been educated as I have been, 
pay Mile. Guilbert gallant compliments ; as for me, 
no sooner had the lady mounted the platform with 
that unmistakable familiarity with the situation and 
command of it which shows itself chiefly by the 
absence of all the petty affectations of the favourite 
who has merely caught the fancy of the public without 
knowing how or why, than I was on the alert to see 
what an evidently very efficient person was going to 
do. And I was not at all deceived in my expectancy. 
It amuses her to tell interviewers that she cannot sing, 
and has no gestures ; but I need not say that there 
would be very little fun for her in that if she were 
not one of the best singers and pantomimists in 
Europe. She divided her programme into three parts : 
Ironic songs. Dramatic songs, and — but perhaps I 
had better use the French heading here, and say 
' Chansons Legeres.' For though Mile. Guilbert 
sings the hymns of a very ancient faith, profusely 


endowed and sincerely upheld among us, we deny 
it a name and an establishment. Its ' Chansons 
Ironiques ' are delivered by her with a line intensity 
of mordant expression that would not be possible 
without profound conviction beneath it ; and if 
there is anything that I am certain of after hearing 
her sing ' Les Vierges,' it is the perfect integrity of 
her self-respect in an attitude towards life which is 
distinctly not that of a British matron. To kindle 
art to the whitest heat there must always be some 
fanaticism behind it : and the songs in which Mile. 
Guilbert expresses her immense irony are the veil 
of a propaganda which is not the propaganda of 
asceticism. It is not my business here to defend 
that propaganda against the numerous and highly 
respectable British class which conceives life as pre- 
senting no alternative to asceticism but licentious- 
ness ; I merely describe the situation to save people 
of this way of thinking from going to hear Mile. 
Guilbert, and proposing to treat her as their fore- 
fathers treated Joan of Arc. Perhaps, however, 
they would only laugh the innocent laugh of the 
British lady who, not understanding French, and 
unwilling to let that fact appear, laughs with the 
rest at the points which prevented Mile. Guilbert 
from inviting the episcopal bench as well as the Press 
to her reception. In spite of her superb diction, 
I did not understand half her lines myself. Part of 
what I did understand would have surprised me 
exceedingly if it had occurred in a drawing-room 
ballad by Mr Cowen or Sir Arthur Sullivan, but I 


am bound to add that I was not in the least shocked 
or disgusted, though my unlimited cognition of an 
artist's right to take any side of life whatever as 
subject-matter for artistic treatment makes me 
most indignantly resentful of any attempt to abuse 
my tolerance by coarse jesting. The fact is, Mile. 
Guilbert's performance was, for the most part, much 
more serious at its base than an average Italian opera 
' Scena.' I am not now alluding to the avowedly 
dramatic songs like ' Le Consent ' and ' Morphinee,' 
which any ordinary actress could deliver in an equally 
effective, if somewhat less distinguished manner. I 
am thinking of ' Les Vierges,' ' Sur la Scene,' and 
the almost frightful ' La Pierreuse.' A Pierreuse, it 
appears, is a garrotter's decoy. In the song she 
describes how she prowls about the fortifications of 
Paris at night, and entraps some belated bourgeois 
into conversation. Then she summons her principal 
with a weird street cry ; he pounces on his prey ; and 
the subsequent operations are described in a perfect 
war-dance of a refrain. Not so very horrible, per- 
haps ; but the last verse describes, not a robbery, 
but the guillotining of the robber ; and so hideously 
exquisite is the singing of this verse that you see the 
woman in the crowd at La Roquette ; you hear the 
half-choked repetition of the familiar signal with which 
she salutes the wretch as he is hurried out ; you 
positively see his head flying off ; above all, you feel 
with a shudder how the creature's impulses of terror 
and grief are overcome by the bestial excitement of 
seeing the great State show of killing a man in the 


most sensational way. Just as people would not 
flog children if they could realize the true effect of 
the ceremony on the child's pet playmates, to whom 
it is supposed to be a wholesome warning, so the 
French Government would certainly abolish public 
executions ' Sans Phrase ' (and perhaps private ones 
too) if only they would go and hear Mile, Guilbert 
sing ' La Pierreuse.' 

" Technically Mile. Guilbert is a highly accomplished 
artist. She makes all her effects in the simplest 
way and with perfect judgment. Like the ancient 
Greeks, not to mention the modern music-hall artists, 
she relies on the middle and low registers of her voice, 
they being the best suited for perfectly well-controlled 
declamation ; but her cantabile is charming, thanks 
to a fine ear and a delicate rhythmic faculty. Her 
command of every form of expression is very remark- 
able, her tones ranging from the purest and sweetest 
pathos to the cockniest Parisian cynicism. There 
is not a trace of the rowdy restlessness and forced 
' go ' of the English music-hall singer about her ; 
and I suggest to those members of the London County 
Council, who aim at the elevation of the music-hall, 
that they could not do better than offer Mile. Guilbert 
handsome terms to follow up her reception of ' La 
Presse Anglaise ' by a series of receptions of Miss 
Marie Lloyd, Miss Katie Lawrence, and other eminent 
English prima donnas, in order that they might be 
encouraged to believe that there is room in music- 
hall singing for art of classic self-possession and delicacy 
without any loss of gaiety, and that the author of a 


music-hall song may not be the worse for being a wit, 
or even a poet." 

The enthusiasm which was thus gradually kindled 
in London for Yvette Guilbert and her art soon 
spread from critics to public, and on her second 
appearance in 1896 she was accorded an ovation 
that revealed the immense hold she had already 
gained on the affection of the latter. Her songs were 
beginning to be better understood, and with a fuller 
understanding there came, as a natural consequence, 
a fuller appreciation. Henceforth Yvette Guilbert 
held an established position in the hearts of London 

This period of her second visit to England was 
marked by the appearance in the " Yellow Book " 
for April, of a delightful appreciation of the artist, 
written by Mr Stanley V. Makower. Some of this deals 
more particularly with her songs, and Mr Makower's 
masterly analysis of "La Soularde " will be found 
elsewhere. But what he has to say of the artist 
herself, her art, and the impression she made on the 
minds of London audiences, is well worth listening 
to, and with the kind permission of the author and 
Mr John Lane, the publisher of the " Yellow Book," 
I take the opportunity of quoting it here. 

" Yvette Guilbert constitutes the one brilliant 
exception to the general statement, advanced with 
some hesitation through want of sufficient knowledge, 
that we have more individual ability on the Music 
Hall Stage than the French have in the Cafe Chantant. 


But the weight of Yvette Guilbert's individuality 
goes far to counterbalance the deficiency, if there is 
one. It is an individuality so marked, so rare, that 
it almost constitutes by its own force a development 
by itself, independent of a place in the history of its 
art, in the same way that the strength of Chopin's 
individuality makes it impossible to put him into 
relation with other composers of music. Curiously 
enough we find that during the life-time of Chopin 
there was the same tendency to call him ' modern,' 
' new-fangled,' and so forth, that we observe in 
those critics who have used the word ' fin-de-siecle ' 
in connection with Yvette Guilbert. In both cases 
the epithets are idle. It is the misfortune which 
attends all histrionic art that it cannot be handed 
down to posterity, but if it were possible to preserve 
something of the art of Yvette Guilbert, we should 
want to preserve the beauty she conceives internally, 
the look of inward imagination that comes from 
her eyes, whilst the simplicity of her dress, the almost 
conventional quality of her gestures, and the long 
black gloves are, at the most, evidence of an unerring 
taste and of a distinguished simplicity. 

" There is, then, nothing essentially contemporary 
in Yvette Guilbert, nor, indeed, is there anything 
contemporary in the form of the art, which her instinct 
has guided her to select for the display of her genius, 
for it is a compromise between the dramatic and 
lyrical form which has its parallel in early classical 
times. Nothing could equal the obtuseness of more 
than one English critic who has advised Yvette 


Guilbert to forsake this quasi-lyrical form for the 
drama — advice which goes conclusively to prove 
that such critics misunderstand the nature of her 
genius from beginning to end. Moreover, if we examine 
the qualities which constitute Sarah Bernhardt the 
greatest living actress, we find at once that they are 
entirely different from those possessed by Yvette 
Guilbert. It is indeed by setting the two side by side 
that we are enabled to grasp more clearly the character 
of the genius which has secured for each a unique 
position in her art. Sarah Bernhardt has a personality 
— a personality so strong that she has succeeded 
in reducing the drama to a formula by which that 
personality can be expressed. It is the extraordinary 
power of that personality that makes her a great 
actress, and perhaps the predominant characteristics 
of it are pictorial and musical. She cannot avoid 
looking and sounding beautiful. Only once do I 
remember the reality of the situation to have asserted 
itself over a superb pose, and then the result was 
destructive. In the last act of ' Fedora,' in which 
the heroine dies in her lover's arms, there is a moment 
when the magnificent harmony of her movements 
is merged in the realism of a dying woman's agony. 
The tiny lace handkerchief (an exquisite symbol 
of her art), which has accompanied her through two 
and a half acts of frenzy, is flung to the ground, and 
with it she seems to abandon the last artifice of a 
great artist ; but this death, unlike most of her 
deaths, is unlovely — it is as revolting as would be 
the actual death of a person on the stage ; it is outside 

YVETTii (;uii,i;ert i.\ her song: "ma grand'mere 
(From a painliug by y^osc (iriiiiic.) 



the domain of art. From this we see that, the moment 
Sarah Bernhardt forsakes her personahty and falls 
into a realism, she ceases to be an artist. On the 
other hand, in Yvette Guilbert personality can never 
be detected, and her realism, as will be seen later 
on, is never naked or unlovely. You can have no 
idea of what she is like off the stage from seeing her 
on the stage. With unerring instinct she moves 
very little when she is singing, and with an unflinching 
courage which makes us marvel she has never been 
tempted to employ the dress or ' make-up ' of any 
character from the beginning of her career until to-day. 
She pins herself to no personality, but stands completely 
unfettered, illustrating in the abstract, by a method 
of intense conception, a number of fundamental 
truths of humanity in a song which does not take 
her five minutes to sing. When she is singing 
Beranger's ' Ma Grand'mere,' she makes no attempt 
at looking and speaking like any individual old 
grandmother whom one can picture to oneself. It 
is true that she wears a white cap and sits in an 
arm-chair, but that is only for her own purposes, 
as, so far as the audience is concerned, the incon- 
gruousness of her youthful face and dress and the 
white cap only serve to dissociate the mind more 
than ever from any single character. She gives 
the impression of infirmity in her voice, and in the 
last verse you can almost see the mist of age creep 
over her eyes as she waves her hand feebly in front 
of her. No impersonation of an individual grand- 
mother could give such an impression of all grand- 


motherhood as Yvette Guilbert manages to convey 
by the subtle variety of tone and manner in which 
she sings the refrain : 

Combien je regrette 

Mon bras si dodu, 
Ma jambe bien faite 

Et le temps perdu. 

" After this, to talk of the drama as an appropriate 
field for the display of her powers is surely irrelevant, 
for, in its present conditions, it could do nothing 
but corrupt and reduce to a minimum those powers 
of lyrical intensity which are the keynote of her 
success. Luckily for us there is no chance of her 
forsaking her present form, for she well knows the 
nature of her talent. And it is sufficient answer 
to the ignorant, who look upon the drama as a higher 
form of art, that eminent teachers of Schumann's 
songs take their pupils to hear Yvette Guilbert, in 
order that they may learn the value of words in 

"It is worth noticing here that Yvette Guilbert 
has to suffer largely from that class of people who 
admire and misunderstand. This is a penalty that 
all public people have to pay, and its effect is not really 
far-reaching ; but the nature of the misunderstanding 
in the case of Yvette Guilbert is a singular one. It 
creates an impression in the mind of the uninitiate 
that the charm of Yvette Guilbert is that of a 
very pretty, very wicked, sparkling soubrette. Such 
impression is conveyed by remarks which everybody 


has heard, such as, ' She sings the most indecent 
songs with the most absurd innocence.' Young 
men tell it you with a perplexed look in their eyes 
which at once conveys the impression that the point 
of the songs is that they are all that Mrs Grundy 
loathes. It is almost needless to say that it is usually 
people who do not understand the French who speak 
like this. Moreover, it is little short of fatuous to 
suppose that a few indecent sentences delivered 
naively will account for the spell which Yvette Guilbert 
throws over her audience. Obviously such an effect 
is produced by something far more rare and funda- 
mental — the possession of an individuality without 
parallel. Indeed, the obscene with her is clearly 
a mere accident in her art — a thing so entirely outside 
herself that she can treat it with the utmost indiffer- 
ence, with even a frank gaiety that is inborn, which 
no amount of study or pose could ever produce — an 
almost unique cleanness of soul, ' under which vice 
itself loses half its evil by losing all its grossness.' 
The novelty of method, the total lack of sensuality 
were what took the French by storm ; for, wearied 
by a host of singers whose individuality never raised 
them above the grossness and sordidness of the 
' bete humaine,' they had never yet dreamed of 
a treatment of another kind — a treatment that again 
seems to remind us of the classics more than of any- 
thing contemporary. 

" Yvette Guilbert is lucky in having poets of no 
mean order to write for her. Prominent among 
these there is Aristide Bruant, a well-known literary 


figure of Paris, who was presented to the ' Societe 
des Gens de Lettres ' in 1892 by Francois Coppee 
as ' the descendant in a direct line of our Villon,' 
in a speech full of genuine enthusiasm. Beside 
Aristide Bruant stands Jules Jouy, whose work 
Yvette Guilbert interprets with perhaps even greater 
success, and examples of which we have heard in 
' La Soularde ' and ' Morphinee ' — both very 
remarkable, but ' La Soularde ' the more successful 
of the two owing to its far greater simplicity. Indeed, 
in this song the art of Yvette Guilbert is exhibited 
to perfection.^ . . . 

" The reality of the picture that she creates is not 
the lettered realism that is conveyed by any external 
method, like that, for example, of Mr Tree, when he is 
made up to look exactly like a Russian spy, an Italian 
cut-throat, or a Jewish pianist ; nor is it the realism 
of Sarah Bernhardt, when she dies in ' Fedora,' 
but the spiritual realism of a thing deeply conceived, 
deeply felt, and translating itself to the audience 
without any delusion of accessories. It is conveyed 
in the quality of the voice, in the marvellous narrative 
of the eyes ; and these are so inimitable that we 
are not surprised at the incapacity of a Cissy Loftus 
to give us a more fundamental notion of Yvette 
Guilbert than could be given by anyone who would 
put on a pair of long black gloves. It is not possible 
that she should suggest her prototype any more than 
a stuffed animal suggests a living one. The best 

1 Note. — For Mr Makower's description of " La Soularde," which 
follows, see page 319. 


proof of this is, that if you hear the accompHshed 
little mimic before you have heard Yvette Guilbert, 
you get an absolutely false and ineffectual impression 
of what the French singer is like ; if you hear her 
afterwards, the impression made on you by her 
prototype is so strong that you cannot stop yourself 
from filling up in your mind the big gaps in the 
imitation, and you come away thinking of Yvette 
Guilbert, and yet feeling perplexed, cheated, dissatis- 
fied. You have wanted the suggestion of a mind — 
you have been given the suggestion of a body, and 
even a very imperfect one, because of the distinction 
of physique in Yvette Guilbert. This is obvious 
enough when we look at a photograph of her, which 
all the cunning of M. Reutlinger is unable to conjure 
into anything approaching a likeness ; and of the 
three hundred pictures which have been painted by 
different artists of the singer, no single one gives 
any complete idea of the original, though many have 
caught a trait here and there, and suggested it 
powerfully enough. In fact, there is nothing 
sufficiently photographic about Yvette Guilbert to 
lend herself to imitation of any sort ; and when 
Cissy Loftus tries to imitate Yvette Guilbert, she 
is like a child trying to make a drawing after 

' ' The type of song mentioned above forms but an 
infinitesimal part of a very large repertoire which 
Yvette Guilbert is always extending by the study 
of new productions. Infinitely delightful are her 
renderings of the songs of Xanrof and others in 


which she displays the lighter side of her talent, 
a vein of broad and yet delicate humour and a 
taste that is unimpeachable. When you hear her 
sing ' Les demoiselles de pensionnat,' you realise 
how impossible it is for her to be vulgar. The 
treatment is so frank and direct, that before you have 
time to collect your thoughts you are laughing with 
the performer at the demoiselles. She has the knack 
of getting her audience on her side before she has said 
two words. Who will forget the charming intimacy 
that she established between herself and the London 
public rather more than a year ago,^ when she stood 
in front of the stage and announced ' Linger Longer 
Loo ' with a distinct emphasis on the last syllable 
of Longer ? The audience of the Empire stroked 
itself all over, and took with the most friendly courtesy 
and enthusiasm the compliment which Yvette Guilbert 
elected to pay them by burlesquing the popular 
song of the hour. This excellent bit of foolery never 
failed to put the whole house in a boisterous good 
humour, and though her burlesques cannot be put 
on a level with her greatest achievements, yet they 
exhibit a humour and a delicate fancy that makes 
it difficult to forget them. They show again that she 
has an extraordinary feeling for the value of words. 
Her burlesques of the American songs are full of a 
fun that is robust, incisive, spontaneous, and her 
French version of the English ' Di, Di ' illustrates 
the creative nature of her genius. Out of the rather 
colourless, commonplace English text she makes 
1 In 1894. 


a thing that sparkles and dances with fun, with at 
least one masterly phrase in it : 

Ne fais pas 9a : 
fa m'fait du mal, 
Ca froissera 
Mon ideal. 

But the numerous songs of which she has written 
both text and music afford abundant proof that she 
is never at a loss for an idea, and, indeed, in many 
of her great successes she has suggested the idea of 
the songs herself, as in Jules Jouy's ' La Soularde.' 

" To attempt to describe the appearance of Yvette 
Guilbert would be folly when even the art of M. 
Steinlen has failed to give us more than a very im- 
perfect idea of what she is like. Indeed, as might be 
expected, her physique is as rare as her qualities as 
an artist. Her face bears in it the irregularities of 
genius, and, moreover, it never seems to look the same 
twice running. It has in it something ' insaisissable,' 
something which evades the precision of mental 
as well as actual portraiture. Perhaps this is owing 
to the remarkable imagination in the eyes, which in 
Yvette Guilbert more than in anybody else give 
the key to the individuality. There is in those eyes 
a great melancholy ; not the morbid melancholy 
of a creature unable to struggle with the world — 
but a look borrowed from the whole of nature, some- 
thing of the infinite sadness which shines from the 
eyes of Botticelli's Prima Vera ; and in that look 
lies a wisdom which makes us wonder. 


" Mr Walter Pater, in his study of Dionysus, points 
out the tinge of melancholy in the god's face in that 
point in his evolution when he passes from the joyous 
spirit in the country, with its rivers and rich imagery 
of grape and wine, to the town, the abode of human 
misery and woe. He traces from this the growth 
of Greek tragedy. 

" Such is the look that steals into the eyes of Yvette 
Guilbert when she leaves the rose gardens of her 
villa on the Seine, to come and sing in the heart of 
Paris of the joys and sorrows, the laughter and the 
tears that are born in the great French city." 



^ >Ka U.0it^ 




It was exactly ten years after her first appearance 
in England that Yvette Guilbert introduced to London 
audiences a style of song as diverse from the songs 
of Montmartre as could possibly be imagined. In 
a dress of flowered silk and a powdered wig, she sang 
quaint old ditties of the seventeenth and eighteenth 
centuries, lyrics by Beaudelaire and Rollinat, set 
to the music of the period, which had been unearthed 
for her by M. Wekerlin, the custodian of the library 
at the Paris Conservatoire. 

" A new Yvette," wrote Arthur Symons to the 
" vSaturday Review," " who has forgotten the learned 
Paris face as she has forgotten the long gloves, sings, 
with an articulation itself a very elaborate art, old 
French songs, which she takes out of dusty shelves 
and restores, with all their old gesture and odour, 
to daylight. Mme. Guilbert has long been a fine 
artist, in the sharp, nervous, somewhat brutal modern 
way, a Forain ; she has become suddenly another 
kind of artist, with the eighteenth-century grace, 
precision, sensibility, witty delicacy of a Fragonard." 

No happier criticism of Yvette Guilbert's earlier 
and later methods could possibly have been made. 
The caricatures of Forain, almost brutally realistic, 


form an adequate parallel to the songs of Montmartre, 
as sung by Yvette Guilbert on her first visit to 
London, ruthless, hard, and typically modern ; while 
her later songs, the songs of Old France, dainty, 
picturesque and redolent of lavender, find a fitting 
counterpart in the delicate idealistic pictures of 

" One cannot always remain the same," she re- 
marked once, when the comparison was pointed out 
to her. " II faut se renouveler, se modifier. Art 
is a mirror which should show many reflections, and 
the artist should not always show the same face, 
or the face becomes a mask." 

Her success in this new line was as instantaneous 
and as assured as ever. It was a revelation in versa- 
tility. From the slang songs of the Paris streets 
to the ditties describing life at the Court of Marie 
Antoinette is a far cry, but Yvette Guilbert's genius 
shone as brightly in the one as it had done in the other. 

Under the heading of " Yvette Exquise," Mr Harold 
Owen, writing in the " Morning Post," has given us 
a vivid impression of Yvette Guilbert as she appeared 
to London audiences in 1904 : 

" At a first hearing of Yvette Guilbert the impression 
is that of the unanalysable perfection of her art. It 
differs not in degree but in kind from the artistry of 
any other — comedienne ! For one must pause at 
that word in deference to the sheer difficulty of 
classifying her — she is above and beyond and outside 
any standard that modern stage representation sets. 
' Tragi-comedienne ' takes the classification a stage 


nearer the truth, but it still leaves something wanting. 
Moreover, in some of her songs and phrases she dwells 
in the realms of pure comedy — with a difference. 
For she soars into its ether, and it is this etherealised, 
volatilised quality of her comedy which distinguishes 
it from that of any other artist. 

" But at a first seeing and hearing of her the im- 
pression is one of uncritical bewilderment at a new 
phenomenon. It is like discovering a new colour 
in the prismatic scale — a simile that again needs 
qualification to allow for the melting iridescence of 
her moods. It is onty after seeing her twice, and a 
dozen times after that, that the details of her art 
stand out to allow of being detected, separated and 
ticketed. Her voice, of course, is the chief instrument 
of her art. And how sensitive it is to the inspiration 
of her mind ! I once heard a physiologist's learned 
lecture on the vocal chords, which, he said, constituted 
the most wonderful of all stringed instruments. The 
lecture explained everything except the inexplicable 
— which may be stated by the example that the voice 
of Yvette Guilbert offers. By what mysterious inter- 
pretative process of nerve and muscle does the breath 
of her body become the subtlest echo of her mind ? 
Her voice ripples, quivers, chirps, and trills ; hardens 
into shrewish perversity or softens to a caress, all 
at a breath. It becomes roguishly coquettish, or 
superbly disdainful, or cajoling ; overflows with 
quiet, simple merriment ; rises, with a lift of her 
eyebrows, to a mocking challenge ; skims like a 
swallow over shallow water, or plunges to a deep 



note of forlornness like a stone dropped into a pool 
of molten lead. It is the nimblest hair-trigger of 
a voice — touched with the lightest fancy of her mind 
it shoots its message right into your intelligence, to 
set you laughing with a delicious delicacy of com- 
prehension ; or it goes straight to the heart with 
a quick little stab and leaves something quivering 
in your soul. It is like the flash of summer lightning, 
playing in harmless frolic ; it falls into a reverie, and 
has something of the witchery and sweet melancholy 
of moonlight on a shadowed lake ; and suddenly 
it drops like an ironic bolt from the serene blue of 
laughing skies to the earth of sordid tragedy. Now 
it is wide open with the frankness, the surprise, and 
the ingenuousness of innocence ; now it is languishing 
on a note of arch, sophisticated coquetry ; now it 
is strangled and narrowed to a note of perversity 
and defiance ; now it undulates with a careless, sen- 
suous, sunny content. It is always specialised to 
an unmistakable meaning ; never vaguely expressive 
of a primary emotion — as of love, fear, hate, or 
jealousy — but always subtly definite. A column of 
print would not be wasted on the shades of meaning 
she can throw into a sigh. 

" But her voice, for all the infinite resource of its 
' nuances,' does not exhaust the expression of her 
art, which is touched to the finest precision by the 
auxiliaries of gesture. Who can express so much 
by a raised eyebrow or a lowered eyelash ? Who can 
put as much meaning in the twiddle of a saucy finger, 
or shrug a shoulder or toss a head to such effect ? 


There are two or three tiny, almost imperceptible, 
movements in ' Les Housards de la Garde ' which 
give all the meaning to the line ' Eh ! bien, ma chere, 
it etait mon amant.' She is the very embodiment 
of expression. And yet no one could be more frugal 
of gesture than she is — she is content to hint and in- 
sinuate, and scorns exuberance. In the department of 
gesture her art is disciplined like Phil May's eloquent 
line — it is fined down to the essential thing, and that 
is presented with a perfect finish. She seems, indeed, 
to carry the power of human personal expression 
to its limit. The subjective impressionism which 
discovered so many moods in Sir Willoughby 
Patteme's leg might conceive of human gestures 
indulging in finer shades of expression than Yvette 
Guilbert conveys, but such a conception or perception 
would only be carrying matters a little beyond the 
scope of the five senses to which human comprehension 
is limited. 

" To employ a summary adjective, she is exquisite 
in all her phases — whether she is the ruthless realist 
in the long black gloves as first we knew her, or the 
old Pompadour dame with quavering voice and 
limbs and the wrinkled face, recalling her young days 
with a senile leer, or is singing an old English ballad 
of fragrant sentiment like ' The Keys of Heaven.' 
English audiences have now seen her in these three 
phases. At first we knew her, an ultra-modem, 
in the shuddering ironic realism of the ' rouleuse ' 
and the ' soularde.' Then a new Yvette Guilbert 
appeared dressed a la Pompadour, and carrying us 


back to the eighteenth century and to the ' Grandes 
dames ' of the French Court, with their vivacity and 
elegances and graceful languors, and at the Palace 
Theatre now we see her dressed in sprigged muslin, 
singing ' chansons crinolines,' songs of the Third 
Empire, and an old English ballad from which she has 
wiped the dust of ages, restoring its fragrance. To 
hear her sing ' The Keys of Heaven ' is like seeing 
one's mother's wedding dress taken out of its lavender 

On the whole Yvette Guilbert appears to have 
found London audiences surprisingly sympathetic. 
They were naturally unable to take up her points 
as quickly and readily as Parisian audiences, partly 
owing to the difficulty of following a foreign language, 
and partly to the fact that the English tempera- 
ment is by nature more slow to respond to any call 
upon its emotions. But Yvette Guilbert found them 
" tres intelligents," nevertheless, and their apprecia- 
tion " fine and delicate." Still she missed in some 
degree that sympathetic thrill which she was used 
to feeling in her Parisian audiences at some subtle 
point of tone or gesture, a thrill which at times almost 
seemed to translate itself into words and come across 
the footlights as the actual voice of the audience. 
English audiences, she declared once, were more in- 
clined to criticise the singer than the song, to let their 
thoughts dwell too much on the personality of the 
artist, and thus lose that sense of intimate relation- 
ship with her art, which is so essential to a complete 


and sympathetic understanding between an artist and 
her pubHc. 

While in London in 1904, Yvette Guilbert took 
the opportunity of studying our Enghsh stage, both 
in the theatre and the music-hall, and, as a result 
of her investigations, communicated her views on 
the subject to the Press. Of the music-halls there 
was apparently nothing much to say, but with regard 
to the legitimate stage, she declared, while expressing 
the deepest admiration for our actors and actresses, 
that she vv'as absolutely astounded at the vapidity 
of the majority of plays that were offered to a dis- 
criminating public. " Why is it ? " she once said 
to an interviewer,^ " tliat you have such poor intel- 
lectual productions ? Do they not take the theatre 
seriously — do the politicians, the men of science, 
the rich merchants of the City, the aristocracy whose 
bedrooms overlook the parks, the rich colonial visitors, 
the lawyers, the soldiers, even the literary men them- 
selves — in short, all the cream of London — do they 
all regard the theatre as a Punch and Judy show to 
make them laugh ? Would they read novels that 
are no better than the plays they see ? Or do they 
merely think that nobody expects much from theatres, 
whereas books must, at least, be intelligent, or people 
would be ashamed to be seen reading them. For 
me, I have been in every theatre in London, and 
I am filled with sorrow, I am ' desolee,' my heart has 
been broken to see such waste of material. Often I 
have come out before the first ' entr'acte.' Yet you 

^ See "Manchester Daily Dispatch," 28th May 1904. 


generous English applaud these stupidities — is it 
because you think them clever ? " 

Another interview appeared in the " Morning Post," 
in which, while expressing very similar sentiments, 
Yvette Guilbert pays a sincere tribute to our actors 
and actresses, and, incidentally, to the Public. 

" What a pity it is," she says, " that with the 
elements you possess — fine staging, fine theatres, 
lovely women, and splendid audiences — you should, 
through heedlessness, suffer the quality of your 
taste to be disturbed. Your public is better than 
the fare provided for it — too good for it, in fact — and 
it is truly disheartening to see the talents of your 
marvellously clever artists put to such trivial uses," 

The publication of this interview provoked a reply 
from Mr (now Sir Herbert) Beerbohm Tree, in which 
he declared that " the English are serious about 
religion but rarely about art," and reminded Madame 
Guilbert that " the French are apt to confuse the 
' obstetric ' with the ' artistic' " 

A friendly correspondence ensued, in which honours 
may be described as being fairly even. It served 
to show, if nothing else, that the French and English 
view the drama from entirely different standpoints, 
and that between the two there is a wider gulf fixed 
than the mere crossing of the English Channel from 
one coast to the other can ever hope to bridge. 



The history of the English Variety Stage contains 
no parallel to Yvette Guilbert. There have been 
clever singers and clever reciters, but no one has been 
found to combine in one art the distinctive qualities 
of these two separate arts. It may be partly because 
we have not the material to work upon. There 
is nothing in the English language to correspond 
quite with the works of Bruant, Xanrof, and Jules 
Jouy. English songs, as a rule, though they may 
dip into pathos, avoid direct tragedy. It is partly the 
outcome of our national character. The French, as 
a nation, are more hysterical and morbidly emotional 
than we are ; more prone to sudden transilience from 
comedy to tragedy, and vice versa. Hence we have 
no ballads of the nature of "La Soularde " or " Ma 
Tete " to exploit, even should an interpreter arise 
who was capable of their exploitation. In our comedy 
songs, too, we miss that light touch which makes 
the French chansonnette so dainty a thing. One or 
two of the songs of this class which Yvette Guilbert 
sings have, when considered in the cold light of an 
English translation, a distinctly " naughty " tendency. 
But the French have such a way of expressing these 
things that they become in their interpretation 


irresistibly droll, and innocent of all offence. In 
English they would often become merely vulgar 
comic songs. But it must not be forgotten that the 
interpretation is more than half the battle, and it 
is in just this that Yvette Guilbert stands on a plane 
so far apart from even the best of our music-hall 
artists. And this becomes even more patent when 
she meets them more or less on their own ground. 
One has only to think of her singing of " Mary was 
a Housemaid," which, from being a feeble and rather 
" banal " music-hall song, becomes in her hands a 
sparkling little comedy of " Life below stairs." 

Perhaps the nearest approach to her on our music- 
hall stage has been Albert Chevalier. Chevalier has 
done for the English coster what Guilbert did for 
the Paris hooligan, albeit in a somewhat different 
way. Both the subject-matter of his songs and his 
manner of delivering them differ materially from hers. 
But the two have many points in common. Each 
is a great artist ; each gives us little, clear-cut, well- 
defined silhouettes of certain phases of life, which 
are not so far apart as they might appear. The 
Paris hooligan and the English coster are, of course, 
quite distinctive types of humanity in many respects ; 
but the pathos, the sordidness, the tragedies of their 
daily lives are very near akin. 

Both artists have the power of bringing home 
to us vividly the scenes of which they sing ; of 
creating that wonderful sense of atmosphere which 
makes us forget the singer and think only of the song. 
But in their methods of producing this effect, in 



their gestures, their enunciation, and their manner 
of delivery, they present a somewhat striking contrast. 

This contrast was very marked when, in 1896, 
they appeared together on the same platform at 
the Duke of York's Theatre, prior to their combined 
tour in America. Mr Max Beerbohm, writing in the 
" Saturday Review " in June of that year, gives 
a very interesting comparison of the two, and points 
out that while there is a distinct kinship between 
these two artists, there are also subtle differences 
between them which have a certain significance, 
as illustrating the differences between French and 
English art. " No one, I imagine," he says, " will 
dispute the platitude that French acting is better 
than English. The points of superiority are many ; 
but the most noticeable of them all is the quickness 
and apparent ease with which (I speak, of course, 
generally) French mimes express as much as can 
by English mimes be expressed only with much de- 
liberation and apparent effort." 

Mr Beerbohm then proceeds to illustrate this 
statement by a study of Mme. Guilbert's methods 
compared with those of Mr Chevalier, and with 
his permission, and that of the " Saturday Review," 
I may be allowed to quote him here, 

" One of Mme. Guilbert's virtues is that she never 
forgets that a singer's first duty to a song is to sing 
it. Always she obeys the rhythm of the music. 
All her acting is done within that limitation. Yet 
is not lost one tittle of the acting necessary to express 
the full meaning of the words. I do not think that 


her face, voice, and hands are more naturally eloquent 
than Mr Chevalier's. But she knows just how much 
use to make of them. Notice in the famous ' Ma 
Grand'mere,' how perfectly she differentiates the 
words of the girl from those of the old woman, yet 
with hardly a perceptible change of key. Something 
happens in her eyes, and we know that it is the girl 
speaking ; we see the girl herself ; and then again, 
in another instant, we see the old woman. One 
can imagine the pauses with which Mr Chevalier 
would mark those transitions, and the violent con- 
tortions he would go through before he got under 
weigh. And yet he would not make us realise the 
old woman and the girl half so vividly as does Mme. 
Guilbert. We should realise that he was performing 
an ingenious feat of character-acting. We should 
think him frightfully clever. But — well, it never 
strikes us that Mme. Guilbert is clever. She does 
but fill us with a perfect illusion of whatsoever scene 
she sings, of whatever type she apes. How she does 
it is (at the moment of watching her) a mystery. 
And but for that mystery she couldn't do it." 

In America they were received with open arms 
in all the forty towns which they visited. The 
appearance of these " two stars on a red firmament 
of serge," as one paper described it, was everywhere 
hailed as a unique opportunity, as indeed it was. 

Both had been to America before. Chevalier was 
voted not to have changed at all. But they found 
Yvette Guilbert altered, just as the style of her songs 
had altered, and her audiences apparently considered 

(Fivin a caricature ly Charles Lcatidrc -.clicn she fust iceul to America.) 


the change to their liking. " Her touch was far 
more mellow," says Mr James O'Donnell Bennett 
in " The Record Herald " (of Chicago), " because 
her material was more gracious than when a decade 
ago she sang savage little ballads of a realistic trend 
at Old Central Music Hall. In truth the artist has 
changed herself, too. She is quite dimply now, and 
notably pretty, and her air is jolly — a very different 
little picture from the thin little creature with the 
knitting-needle arms, and the wan eyes that looked 
out over rows upon rows of empty seats in the 
vanished concert-room." 

This note of approval for the new order of things 
was echoed by practically all the critics. American 
audiences had apparently failed to enter into the 
spirit of her earlier songs, the songs that dealt in so 
wonderful and intimate a fashion with the life of the 
streets of Paris. They found the sprightliness of 
her Pompadour and Crinoline songs very much more 
to their tastes ; and special appreciation seems to 
have been accorded to "La Fille de Parthenay," 
described by one critic as " an exquisitively coquettish 
and politely suggestive item," " Les Cloches de 
Nantes," " Le Jaloux et la Menteuse," " Les Housards 
de la Garde," " Les Belles Manieres," and her singing 
of English songs. 

It is perhaps of interest to note in passing that 
Yvette Guilbert's songs of ten years before were in 
America voted somewhat " improper." The subject 
has already been referred to once or twice in this 
book from the standpoint of English audiences, but 


the American outook would appear to be somewhat 
different. In a rather amusing article, under large 
headlines, recording the fact that " GUILBERT 
SINGS PROPER DITTIES." an American critic 
deals with this side of the question in some detail. 
" Nothing," he says, " could have been more polite 
and decorous than Yvette Guilbert's share of the 
entertainment, and not a single song she sang could 
have caused a blush. Though the audiences read 
the translated verses as she carolled and acted them, 
there wasn't a line that recalled the songs of the 
canaille and of the half-world that she sang once upon 
a time. Those songs, or some of them, were saved 
to be read behind a screen at home, for the books 
so avidly purchased by the non-French-speaking 
audience contained many of the verses which once 
caused the more discreet mammas and chaperons to 
pack their wards quickly away." 

America took the new Yvette very much to its 
heart, and the critics were unanimous in their apprecia- 
tion. " As to the rippling grotesquerie of this delicious 
humorist " — to quote Mr Bennett once more — " there 
is little one can do but rave. She is too elusive to 
be describable. She pouts, she whimpers, she flouts, 
she is coquettish and she is demure, all in four lines 
of the same song. She has Calve's fire and Mrs 
Fiske's flutter. She can shade her tones into any 
emotion, and her knack in grimace is incomparable. 
She can give you spite, impudence, vexation, languor, 
and appeal in as many seconds as there are words 
here for her moods. ... In the old English songs 


she was very prim, but very enticing, and the way 
she affected alarm and shyness over her own EngHsh 
captivated and touched the house." 

A writer in the " Boston Transcript," in a notice of 
the Guilbert-Chevalier recital, having made a refer- 
ence to France as being the " wickedest country in 
Europe by reason of masculine selfishness and lack of 
conscience," Yvette promptly indited him a letter, 
in the course of which she said : 

" France is the sumptuous fatherland of Beauty — 
all the arts, from the smallest to the greatest, blossom 
there and multiply magnificently. Painting, sculpture, 
literature, music, dramatic art, poetry, lyric art, 
all the lights of the French soul are born of French 
sentiment, French sensibility. All nations regard the 
Frenchman as a man of refined tastes — delicate, 
sensitive — and he is therefore very hard to please. 

" He carries sentiment even into business, abhors 
brutality in gesture or speech, knows how to be 
a great merchant and at the same time a ' grand 
seigneur,' to make millions in trade and spend ten 
hours a day in his office — courteous, affable, polished, 
with the manners of a very perfect gentleman — and 
to make his office a salon. But — but ! — he is more 
exacting than any other ! More sensitive and more 
sentimental, he is ' curieux.' Money isn't his sole 
objective. For he is too Latin not to appreciate 
the other beauties of the forces of life. To his way 
of thinking money isn't a source of strength, but rather 
a weakness. How can you interpret in America 
a soul like his ? The Frenchman alone knows that 


happiness — noble happiness, voluptuously refined — 
isn't solely the product of riches. He regards money 
as only one of the thousand sources of the joy of 
living, and he wants full knowledge of the nine 
hundred and ninety-nine others. The Frenchman 
doesn't merely want to be rich, he wants to be happy. 

" His sentimentalism craves love, and beauty 
in love, mental fervour in love, originality in love, 
and tenderness, devotion, surprise, unexpectedness, 
drollery, melancholy, sincerity, and deception — in 
a word, all the humanities that love inspires in women. 
And a Frenchman's eternal sorrow, a Frenchman's 
eternal distress, is the perpetual and indefatigable 
search for her who shall sum up within herself all 
that his sentimentalism, his artistic responsiveness, 
dreams of finding. 

" A Frenchman of marked individuality and any 
elevation of mind cannot find his ideal. No one 
woman has all the physical and intellectual beauties 
to satisfy him, and he runs from the brunette to the 
blonde, from the slender to the plump, from the 
spirituelle to the intelligent, from the American girl 
to the Russian, from the English woman to the German, 
always busily seeking complete happiness, which he 
succeeds in gaining in its fulness only by long and 
multiple sojourns almost everywhere. 

" If this isn't an excuse, it's at least an explana- 
tion. You say that the Frenchman lacks conscience. 
Perhaps. There are weaknesses in abundance in his 
character, but he nevertheless possesses a character, 
and it is lashed by divers sentimentalities — now of 


the higher order, now of the lower — yet never, never 
petrified by the sole motive, money." 

The tour, which entailed a prodigious amount 
of hard travelling in a short time, was an immense 
success. The combined performance of these two 
artists, at once so alike and so different, must have 
been something of a revelation. Each is well-nigh 
perfect in his or her way ; together, they spell an 
entertainment that for sheer artistry it would be 
difficult to surpass. 



In 1907 Yvette Guilbert sprang something of a sur- 
prise upon the theatrical world, by announcing that she 
intended to say farewell to vaudeville, and become a 
comedy actress. The news was received with un- 
feigned regret, for, however successful she might prove 
as an actress, and there were few who doubted her 
success for a moment, it was felt that nothing could 
make good the loss of Yvette Guilbert as a singer. 
" One might urge on Madame Guilbert," said a writer 
in " The Nation," " that there are many comedy 
actresses, and hut one Yvette : that art is not to be 
measured by the size of the medium through which 
it is presented ; that one of her songs, sung as she 
sings it, is worth a whole scene of a comedy." How- 
ever, apparently her mind was made up, and she 
bade a formal farewell to her audiences at the Palace 
Theatre in July of that year. 

No doubt her decision was largely influenced by 
the triumph she had already achieved at Brussels in 
February, in playing the part of Lea Marciliana in a 
piece entitled " L'Eau Trouble," by Ed. Guiraud 
and Jean de Hinx. Her family, it will be remembered, 
had assured her in the early days that she would 
never succeed as a singer, and had begged her to 



pin her faith to the legitimate stage, in spite of her 
previous faikircs in this direction. 

To this advice she turned a deaf ear, and persisted 
in the pursuit of the career which she had chosen for 
herself ; now, when as a singer she had succeeded, 
with a success that even in her most sanguine moments 
she could never have dreamt of, it may be that, sighing 
for new worlds to conquer, her mind went back to 
those early days, her former tribulations in the theatre, 
and the unheeded counsels of her friends. And so 
at Brussels she made her venture, threw the die, 
and won. The stage had gained another star ! 

The way in which this came about is told by M. 
Guiraud himself. " About a year and a half earlier," 
he says, " I became acquainted with a charming 
society woman, Mme. de Gardilanne, whose play, 
* Le Dernier Reve du Due d'Enghien,' written 
under the pseudonym of Jean de Hinx, had just 
been performed at the Bouffes-Parisiens. Encouraged 
by the success of this play, and feeling that her friend 
Yvette Guilbert had, from an excess of modesty, 
confined her talents too long to the Cafes-Concerts, 
she wrote a new play, entitled ' La Loi du Sang,' 
expressly for Madame Guilbert, and sent the manu- 
script to me. I saw at once that the piece contained, 
above everything else, one extremely poignant situa- 
tion, and I wrote to Yvette Guilbert my apprecia- 
tion of its literary merits. She replied as follows : — 
' Mme. de Gardilanne fully appreciates the fact that 
her play is somewhat lacking in the proper elements 
of dramatic construction, and, knowing your talents 


in this direction, is anxious for you to collaborate 
with her. Will you do it ? ' I immediately accepted 
this tempting offer, and set to work to compress 
' La Loi du Sang ' into three acts, changing the 
title to ' L'Eau Trouble.' The piece then went 
into rehearsal." 

M. Guiraud himself was confident of Yvette Guil- 
bert's ability to create the part of Marciliana. " Her 
excellent dramatic qualities struck me at once," 
he says. " I saw that her genius was what might 
be called ' comprehensive,' capable of entering into 
the part to the smallest detail, and of bringing her 
fine intelligence to play upon the audience. She 
has a natural gift for sentiment, and her artistic 
powers seemed to me to have just reached their 
fullest expansion at this time." 

Her success in " L'Eau Trouble " was never for 
a moment in question ; it was more than a success, 
it was a veritable triumph. Her part was that 
of a young Italian woman, married to a man much 
older than herself. Her husband, an austere and 
rather wearisome person, quite fails to understand 
the nature of his young wife, brimming over with 
youth and the joy of life ; and after two years of 
married life she goes off with someone else, leaving a 
little son behind her. The son grows up and becomes 
a dramatist. The mother in her turn has become 
a great actress ; the two are introduced, and the 
mother consents to create the leading role in a new 
play written by her son, who, of course, has no idea 
of the real relationship between them. The inevitable 


happens. Intoxicated with the success of his play, 
the young dramatist throws his heart at the feet 
of the woman whose superb genius has so greatly 
contributed to his triumph. 

This is the great scene of the play, and Yvette 
Guilbert handled it as only a great actress could. 
It was impossible to tell him the truth, the shock 
of the discovery would drive him to suicide. All 
she can do is to disappear out of liis life, disappear 
finally and irrevocably. But she reckons without 
the impetuosity of youth. He follows her, and she 
teUs him, not the whole truth, but a semblance of 
it, which is that she loves him devotedly, but not 
with the love that he asks of her. Uncomprehending, 
but realising the finality of her refusal, the young 
dramatist shoots himself. 

" Mme. Yvette Guilbert," wrote a critic of this 
performance, " revealed herself as an artist in the 
highest sense of the word. She interpreted the 
part of Lea Marciliana not alone with warmth and 
passion, but with that sense of the beauty of pro- 
portion w^iich is the hall-mark of a great actress." 

" One thing is certain," wrote another, " and that 
is that there is in her acting more than mere carefully- 
acquired talent ; there is personality, temperament, 
a deep and penetrating sensibility. Yvette Guilbert 
with just a murmured word or two brought tears 
to many people's eyes last night." 

The following letter to " L' Express " of Liege, from a 
correspondent at Brussels who witnessed the produc- 
tion, sums up to a nicety the general verdict of the 


critics, and also goes to show clearly that Yvette 
Guilbert brought to bear upon her new adventure in the 
realms of art those qualities of patience and persever- 
ance which had contributed so greatly to her success 
as a singer. 

" You know that Yvette Guilbert has just made 
a very happy debut as an actress at the Theatre du 
Pare. She was playing in ' L'Eau Trouble,' and 
her interpretation of the part was not only original, 
but extremely interesting. No doubt the recollec- 
tion of ' Yvette the singer ' prevented some of the 
audience from reahsing impartially how great this new 
achievement was ; but that is a recollection which, 
I can assure you, she is very shortly going to 

" Let me say at once how deserving of praise is 
the decision of this woman, who has won fame and 
fortune in her own particular form of art, and who 
could so easily continue to reap the harvest of that 
hard-earned success, to devote herself to the service 
of another and more serious art, the art of the 

" Her ability to serve this art is unquestionable. 
Those who followed her interpretation, marred .only 
by a slight evidence of nervousness, of the part of 
Marciliana, can testify to that. There was nothing 
conventional about her performance. It revealed 
traces of careful study throughout, and a desire 
in every detail to give a faithful rendering of the 
part. It was in the emotional scenes above all that 
she shone supreme, revealing a depth of intelligence 


and warmth of feeling that surprised her audience. 
One could not help thinking, in watching her, that 
as a singer she had found her true scope in such 
songs as ' La Roussotte ' and ' La Sofilarde,' rather 
than in those of the type of ' Les Petits Cochons.' 

" She had, as a matter of fact, studied her part 
with all the patience and timidity of a debutante. 
She was six weeks rehearsing. Her colleagues in 
the cast declared that she was word-perfect weeks 
before, but that she was never satisfied with herself, 
was always adding little finishing touches, and was 
as nervous as a novice about the first performance, 
which she had postponed twice. By the actual night 
she was in a pitiable state of nervousness ; which 
increased to such an extent that by the end of the 
performance she was seriously ill, in spite of the 
instantaneous success which she made, and the very 
warm and sincere applause with which she was 

" This nervousness is rather touching in a woman 
who has for years been used to applause of the public ; 
it is the outcome of a keen intelligence and an ' artistic 
conscience,' which makes us hope all the greater 
things of this transference of her talent to a new 
sphere, which demands qualities of a higher type 
than those by which her genius first revealed 

The verdict of the critics was ever3rwhere unani- 
mous. Yvette Guilbert herself was entranced with 
her triumph. On the following morning she wrote to 
Ed. Guiraud, one of the authors of the piece, who had 


not been present at the production, the following 
characteristic letter : — 

" My dear Guiraud, — Triumph ! The thing is 
done ! Oh ! the emotions I have been through ! 
Never shall I forget last night ! From seven o'clock 
to nine I was paralysed with nervousness, cold 
as ice ; my heart felt as though it had stopped 
beating, my legs as though they would give way 
under me. It was terrible ! . , . Then all in 
a moment I felt the atmosphere of sympathy, 
of tenderness even, that enveloped the audience. 
My heart began to beat once more ; I felt I could 
smile — ouf ! People say that I made a splendid 
Marciliana. Let me believe them so as to gain 
courage. In every scene I expended all the nerve 
force of which I was capable, and after each act they 
recalled me. The climax of the last act was, they 
tell me, extraordinary. . . . Come and see for yourself 
whether it is so, . . . 

" Thank you, thank you a thousand times, dear 
friend ! 

" YvETTE." 

It was small wonder that Yvette Guiibert, after 
so triumphant a reception, should feel that hence- 
forth her metier lay on the legitimate stage. She 
came back to England to fulfil her engagement at 
the Palace, when, as has already been mentioned, 
she announced her intention of leaving the music- 
hall for the stage. In the autumn of that year — 


October 1907 — she made her first appearance in Paris 
at the Varietes as a comedy actress. And yet not her 
first, for some seventeen years before, at the very 
outset of her career, she had, as we know, appeared 
in the small part of the Duchesse de Nevers in " La 
Reine Margot," strangely enough, at the self-same 
theatre. Then she was an unknown quantity ; now 
she faced the critics of Paris with the record of a long 
and well-merited success as a singer behind her. 

Prior to her appearance at the Varietes, she con- 
tributed an article to " Le Figaro," in which she gave 
some of her reasons for wishing to appear on the 
legitimate stage, and incidentally threw some interest- 
ing side-lights on the story of her career as a singer. 

" Whether I make a success or not, the fault will 
not be mine, but the public's. My decision to play 
in comedy is simply the result of the expressed desire 
of my audiences in every country, including Parisians, 
to which they have given voice during the last fifteen 

" In every town through which I have passed, 
the critics have over and over again expressed their 
regrets in the papers that I should be so mis-using 
(as they called it) my natural gifts, which, they per- 
sisted in saying, were of a high order. The ' chansons ' 
out of which I was trying to make little comedies 
in miniature apparently gave both the critics and 
the public a desire to see me give what they were 
pleased to call my talents a wider scope. 

" Well, what are my particular talents ? I'm sure 
I don't know. They must be of a somewhat peculiar 


quality if, when people hear me sing, they immediately 
advise me to do something else ! 

" All the same I'm not deaf ; and when one's ears 
are open one is bound to listen. And so, one fine 
day, while I was still hesitating as to what I should 
do, the angel Gabriel, in the shape of Madame de 
Gardilanne, reproached me for my lack of courage. 
I was ashamed, I freely confess it. Life had held 
many severe struggles for me, from each of which 
I had emerged smiling and victorious, and this after 
all was only ' play.' And so it came about that I 
played in ' L'Eau Trouble,' by Madame de Gardilanne 
(Jean de Hinx) and Ed. Guiraud, at Brussels. 

" Shall I ever forget that first night ? All that a 
highly-strung nervous system can suffer I suffered ; 
every pang of agony of which the human heart is 
capable, my heart experienced. I can imagine that 
sleep-walkers must move and speak and smile very 
much in the manner in which I went through most 
of the first act of ' L'Eau Trouble.' Then during 
the five minutes in which I had no lines to speak, 
I took myself to task with a feeling of shame. ' Was 
it really possible to take oneself so seriously ? ' I 
thought. ' Wasn't it a pitiable thing to throw one's 
whole mental balance so hopelessly out of gear, and 
all for a play, a simple play. After all, it was only 
one of two things, failure or success, and after that, 
what did it matter ? ' 

" ' Have you so much foolish pride,' I thought 
angrily, ' that you allow yourself to be possessed with 
so unhealthy a craving for success. How silly ! 


Are you such a coward that you fear failure ? How 
weak ! ' I had been surprised into displaying an 
intellectual asthenia, and caught myself in the very 
act ! I felt most horribly small ! 

" But fortune, which has always stood my friend, 
gave me the victory that evening nevertheless. But 
my success did not inspire me with the idea that 
I had talent, but simply courage. On the very next 
day I began to study a new part, as a sort of mental 
training, and found time to master it before the end 
of the thirty performances of ' L'Eau Trouble ' at 

" Now here I am at the Varietes, an attentive 
pupil, fascinated by the atmosphere of an art which 
seems to be the peculiar property of this particular 
theatre ; an art which reflects the life of the Paris 
Boulevards — light, smart, airy, and flippant ; an 
' art du soir ' in fact. 

" Samuel, 1 who has known me for twenty years, 
treats me like an old friend. He is strict but just ; 
and what an artist he is ! What a wonderful know- 
ledge of the theatre is his ! It is a pleasure to work 
under him ! 

" He wants me to have a success, he too ! So do 
I, needless to say. It is useless for me to reiterate 
that three years ago I knew nothing of the stage. 
This terrible man (a very monument of pertinacity) 
keeps on telling me that I must have a success, and 
that at once. Almost at my wits' end, I ask for a 
postponement, but all in vain. Samuel wishes me to 

I The Manager of the Varietes. 


have a success. If the gods hsten to him at all, I 
shall certainly have it ! 

" If I fail, I shall have to begin all over again, for 
I mean to succeed as an actress. I meant to succeed 
as a singer, but success did not come all at once. 
I was hissed and hooted at Lyons, dismissed from the 
Casino, then in Paris dismissed from the Eldorado. At 
last, with my ninth song, ' La Pocharde,' I established 
my reputation ; it had taken me eighteen months to 
do it. After that I was obliged to leave ' L'Eden 
Concert,' where my songs of the * Chat Noir ' type 
horrified the directors, and made my fellow-artists 
smile. Success came at last — it would last a year, 
people said ! I had given it up in despair, poor 
Success to whom everyone pays court. It came to 
me who had scarcely thrown it a smile. 

" Yes, it came to me as a happy surprise, in the 
guise of a wealthy lover to the daughter of a poverty- 
stricken household. He was welcomed with astonish- 
ment and emotion ; everybody offered him a chair. 
I alone could take no part in the general rejoicing. 
The marriage took place in due course ; I was nineteen 
years old, and since the age of twenty my work, 
so amply and persistently rewarded, has continued 
to offer him an affectionate gratitude. I am most 
grateful of all to him for having given me the taste 
and passion for work ; I could not live without the 
desire of acquiring more knowledge, and of striving 
always after perfection. And I am grateful to those 
who have urged me to make this new venture for 
having understood that I have always remained a 


learner and a student, only too pleased to find new 
difficulties to be conquered, and tickled at the idea 
of tasting all the sauces in the kitchen of dramatic 

" When I was a little girl I had a great distaste 
for spinach. My father insisted on my eating it 
every day, until, when I had begun to grow really 
fond of it, he refused to have spinach on the table. 
That was his method of education. I think I shall 
take my cue from it. When I have mastered my new 
profession to perfection I shall give it up. So, you 
see, I have plenty of years of work in front of 

" But I am oh ! so terribly nervous at the thought 
of occupying the place of honour in the Varietes 
' Academy,' a place that so many great artists 
have occupied before me. I don't like being the 
* star ' ; I should have preferred a more modest debut. 
But my colleagues, Lebergy, Brasseur, Guy, Dearly, 
Prince, and Dieterle are all so charming, and give 
me so much encouragement, and so congenial a 
relationship has been established between us during 
rehearsals, that I cannot but gain courage and con- 
fidence from my surroundings. Then there is Samuel, 
most magnetic of stage-managers ; and our witty 
author, L'Artus, under whose guidance work becomes 
at once a pleasure and a profit. 

" In short, I am much touched and moved by so 
many indications of confidence, and I long for a great 
success to give them pleasure, and a small meed to 
satisfy myself. My apprenticeship as an actress wiU 


help to improve me as a singer, notwithstanding 
the fact that I am a singer first and an actress 

" Heavens, Samuel ! what a complicated affair 
is life ! And how difficult, oh friend Louis Artus, 
to act in the full glare of an established reputation. 
I wish I were an unknown celebrity ! Though then, 
it is true, I might have less courage to make the 
attempt. And the beginning and the end of every- 
thing is — courage ! " 

As at Brussels, so in Paris, Yvette Guilbert received 
an ovation. The play was " L'Amour en Banque," 
a comedy in three acts, by M. Louis Artus. The 
cast was almost completed, but one thing was still 
lacking — an actress to play the principal part. One 
after another was asked, but each, for some reason 
or other, was compelled to refuse. At last Albert 
Brasseur, who was playing in the piece, bethought 
him of Yvette Guilbert. She was only too willing. 
Brasseur therefore approached the author and 
broached the subject. " Here," said he to M. Artus, 
" is an artist whose renown as a singer does not 
satisfy her ; she wants to win a reputation on the 
stage. At the very zenith of her fame she wishes 
to risk another throw with fortune. She is ready 
to play in ' L'Amour Banque ' — what do you think 
of the idea ? " The author was not long in making 
up his mind. His was a temperament by nature 
inclined to take risks. Besides, the idea caught his 
fancy immediately ; it seemed to him that here 
was the very woman he had been looking for. And 

[Manuel, Paris. 


so it was settled. Yvette Guilbert should play 
the part. 

That the confidence of the author was not misplaced 
was abundantly shown by the verdict of Press and 
public. Yvette Guilbert in her new role conquered 
Paris as completely as she had done in that of a 
singer of the Songs of Montmartre, or the old-world 
ditties of the time of Marie Antoinette. 

It was in the second act of this comedy that Yvette 
Guilbert had her great chance It was practically 
a scene between herself, as the wife of an absent 
husband, and Max Dearly, who played the part of 
an American millionaire, and one can easily imagine 
how finely it was played. But though Yvette the 
actress scored a genuine triumph, it was Yvette the 
singer who triumphed most. Her singing of two 
songs in this act, one a French ditty, the other, " I 
want you ma honey " in English, while accom- 
panying herself at the piano, was the signal for a 
tumultuous round of applause that shook the house 
to its foundations. 

It would seem now as though Yvette Guilbert 
were destined infallibly to spend the rest of her 
public life in playing comedy parts. But the old love 
proved too strong for her to desert altogether. And 
it is doubtful, with all her acknowledged talents as 
an actress, whether she will ever find so perfect a 
medium for the expression of her individual genius 
as is found in her songs, whether grave or gay. 



Not content with her hard-earned triumphs in other 
spheres, Yvette Guilbert a few years ago made up 
her mind to enter a fresh arena — that of literature. 
The decision was not an unnatural one, nor the 
revolution from singer and actress altogether so 
surprising as it might appear. It must be remembered 
that in winning her way to success in the particular 
career which she had mapped out for herself, she 
had experienced almost every kind of human emotion, 
and in almost every degree ; and the new form of 
art which she had evolved was in great measure 
simply a reflection of the joys and sorrows of humanity 
as seen and imderstood by her, and mirrored back 
to humanity through the medium of her songs. She, 
who knew human nature so well, was surely fully 
equipped to enter the field of romance, a romance 
that loses nothing by being eminently true to life, 
and based on actual knowledge and experience. 

" Yvette Guilbert," wrote Auguste Joly in " Le 
Journal," " having reached the point where she 
found herself endowed with creative power, suddenly 
turned writer. It would have been impossible for 
her to interpret so powerfully and vividly all the 
terrible spirit of ' abandon ' that characterises ' La 


Soulcirde,' or of the sense of revolt against the social 
and moral law that is displayed in ' Ma Tete ' ; to 
say nothing of the amorous folly of ' Le Fleiir de 
Berge,' the primitive innocence of ' Lisette ' or the 
amused unconsciousness of the ' caricature ' songs 
beloved of the Cafes Concerts, without the creative 
power. And when the study of humanity has been 
brought to so intense and so complete a pitch, it 
naturally seeks to find expression through the more 
formal medium of literature." 

Her first novel, " La Vedette," was published in 
Paris in 1902, and won considerable praise from the 
French critics. It was, as might have been expected, 
a novel dealing with that life which she had cause 
to know so well, the life of the Cafes Concerts, and 
the note that runs through the book is a very intimate 
and a very personal one. " The peculiar art of the 
Cafes Concerts," says one writer in reviewing the 
book,^ " is a firmament that can boast of stars of very 
varying magnitude, and of a very diverse destiny. 
Some of them are permanent, more or less ; but 
there are far more which are but fleeting, and suffer 
a total eclipse after blazing for a brief moment. They 
fall into the gutter or the mud, and no one is in the 
slightest degree dazzled. The tricks and knaveries 
of those who make and lose fortunes by engaging 
artists to sing for them ; the whims and caprices 
of the Goddess of Fortune and Success ; the extra- 
ordinarily varied repertoire of songs, sentimental, 
comic and vulgar, which go to make up the programmes 

^ In " Le Journal des Debats." 


at these places of amusement ; the sort of public 
they attract, and the fickle tastes of this same public, 
at one moment all warmth and enthusiasm, at another 
frigidly hostile ; all this is faithfully portrayed in 
Mme. Guilbert's book." 

We have already had, in an earlier chapter, some 
description of the peculiar atmosphere of the Cafes 
Concerts by a writer well acquainted with his subject. 
But Yvette Guilbert, in her novel, gives us a much 
more intimate and vivid impression, an impression 
that comes from the inside, and is gained at first- 
hand, by one who has seen with her own eyes, and 
heard with her own ears, the things of which she 
writes. No apology, therefore, should be needed 
for quoting from the opening chapter of the book 
a passage which paints in life-like colours a typical 
scene at one of the Sunday musical evenings of lower- 
class Paris. 

" Mademoiselle Edmee is going to sing ' Les 
Coccinelles.' " 

This announcement had only the smallest of effects 
on the hubbub of conversation, the noise of scraping 
chairs and the clinking of glasses on the marble tables. 

Nevertheless Mademoiselle Edmee, emerging from 
out the veil of smoke which almost obscured the gas 
jets that lighted the hall, was already mounting the 
inverted packing case which served as a stage, and 
the first chords of this song of Massenet's were already 
being droned out from the emaciated-looking piano 
in the corner. 


The scene was the basement of a wine merchant's 
shop in the Rue JuHen-Lacroix, which on this Sunday, 
as on every other Sunday, had been turned into the 
" temple lyriqae " of the Fauvette de Menilmontant 
musical society. 

This basement was a long, almost square room, 
with a low ceiling, and reached by a spiral staircase, 
up and down which the waiter trotted unceasingly. 
The waiter, with a total disregard for the claims 
of high art, had a knack of breaking in upon the 
most vital moments of a recitation, or the most 
brilliant passage of a song, with a resounding " Kirsch, 
sir ? " or " A bottle of wine for you, sir," which 
would invariably be followed by cries of " Hush ! 
hush ! " and " Get out ! " emanating from the 
music-lovers in the audience, the whole of which 
produced a medley of noise not at all conducive to 
the proper execution of masterpieces. 

Well, well, it is not every artist who can afford 
to hire the Opera House, and the performers at the 
Fauvette de Menilmontant musical society, only 
too happy to be allowed to display their fine voices, 
were not disposed to be over-particular. After all, 
what did it matter, as long as one sang ? 

Meanwhile Mademoiselle Edmee, decked in a black 
straw hat, was declaring, in the shrillest of voices, 
and with a painful monotony of gesture, that 

" Les coccinelles sont couche-e-es/' 

and then, having brought her efforts to a close, she 
leapt down lightly from her perch. 


" Encore ! encore ! " shouted a voice from a far 

" No, no ! Shut up ! " came from another comer. 

Then several faint signs of applause were followed 
by more vigorous cries of " Hush ! " 

Eventually Mademoiselle Edmee, with a muttered 
" I don't know any more," proceeded to sit down. 

The disturbance thus averted in this quarter 
suddenly broke out in another. 

" Our friend Paquet is going to sing," the chairman 

" Rubbish ! It's not his turn ! " roared an angry 

Then there was a sudden scuffle close to the plat- 
form. Friend Paquet, dressed in a short dinner 
jacket, a stand-up collar, and a " Lavalliere " tie, 
had just risen at the announcement of his name, when 
a heavy hand fell on his shoulders, and forced him 
back into his seat. 

" It's my turn, mine ! " growled the voice of 
Florent, nicknamed " Bat d'Af," in his ear ; " and 
here ever3^one takes his proper turn, my friend." 

Then, in drunken accents — for Florent, nicknamed 
" Bat d'Af," was as drunk as a lord — he began to bellow 
out, without waiting for any preliminary announce- 
ment, the following lines : — 

Via I'Bat d'Af qui passe ! 
Ohe ! ceux d'la classe ! 

He was a great giant of a man, with muscles that 
stood out on his arms like miniature legs of mutton. 


In vain the chairman rapped on the piano to demand 
silence ; it was no good. 

Qui qui rigol'ra 
Quancl la classe, 
Quand la classe, 
Qui qui rigol'ra 
Quand la classe partira ! 

he bawled, his voice growing in vigour and ferocity. 

The ladies began to get alarmed, and the chair- 
man had an inspiration. Just as Florent was be- 
ginning to brandish the chairs about the former 

" Florent, my friend, you are frightening the 
ladies. Our guests will have a queer opinion of the 
" Fauvette " if you behave like this ! " 

These words had the desired effect. The drunkard 
suddenly stopped singing, and taking off his hat 
to one of the ladies, he muttered : 

" My respects to the sex. All I ask is that Paquet 
shall not be allowed to sing. If he sings I shall do 
for him." 

" Very well," said the chairman soothingly, " Paquet 
shall not sing. Only sit down ! " 

" Ladies and gentlemen," he went on, " it is now 
our friend Femand's turn." 

A chorus of acclamation broke out at this announce- 
ment. The enthusiasm was unanimous, and even 
Florent himself shouted with the rest of them. 

" Bravo ! bravo ! Femand ! Fernand ! " 

In the following year she published a second novel. 


entitled, " Les Demi-Vieilles." This book, written 
with much natural grace and felicity of expression, 
deals with the tragedy of the middle-aged actress, 
who is desperately trying to remain, and appear, 
young. It reveals, perhaps even more than in her 
singing, if that were possible, Yvette Guilbert's 
extraordinary knowledge of life and humanity, and her 
wonderful insight into, and pity for, human miseries. 
The " Demi-Vieille," of whatever profession, or what- 
ever nationality, is more often than not a semi- 
pathetic figure. Yvette Guilbert herself once wrote 
some verses on the same subject, and they might 
well have stood as a preface to her novel. 

La demi-vieille, c'est I'image 
D'un beau fruit lourd, lourd et dore, 
Beaute chaude comme un feuillage 
De paysage mordore. 

La demi-vieille, c'est le rire 
D'un jour des morts eternise^, 
Comme la " Toussaint du Sourire/' 
Un soir de novembre irise. 

The particular " demi-vieille " of the novel is Esther 
Renot, an actress, who at forty-three, with a grown- 
up son of twenty-four, poses to the world, both on 
and off the stage, as a woman of twenty-eight. She 
has long been in love with Maurice Roval, a young 
and successful dramatist, and has the foolishness to 
imagine that her love is returned. But Maurice 
is a ferocious egoist ; he looks on all human beings 
as so many puppets for his plays, and makes copious 


notes in his diary of their actions, their words, and 
their emotions, for his future use. He is not a creator, 
in fact, but only an imitator from Hfe, the httle Hfe 
in which he moves, and breathes, and has his being. 
Indeed, he is made to confess as much in the book 
in the following passage, where he says : 

" We have no longer any heroes left, and con- 
sequently ver}^ few legendary stories ; besides, one 
gets tired of dealing with subjects which one can 
only study at a distance. Thus prevented from 
soaring, inspiration has to content itself with the 
lesser flight of actualities, which consist of impressions 
obtained at first hand and gained by probing the 
thoughts of those around us to the quick. Thus 
we are able to acquire a morbid and unhealthy know- 
ledge of human life and emotion which shall satisfy 
our sordid curiosity." 

Eventually Maurice discovers her real age, and, 
while still allowing her to think that he is more or 
less in love with her, his first idea is to " study her 
every line and wrinkle " in order to decide whether 
she is still capable of playing the leading part in his 
next piece. Finally he tells her that he proposes 
writing a play to be called " Les Demi-Vieilles," 
dealing with middle-aged women who conceal their 
age in order to keep their lovers' affection, and, when 
the play is written, offers her the principal part. 
She is to appear as what she is, a woman of middle 
age, without concealment or disguise. He tells her she 
is the one woman who could play the part, and give 
it the semblance of reality ; and for the sake of women 


in general, for the sake of art, and perhaps, most 
of all, for the sake of his own dramatic reputation, 
he implores her to consent. Even the cold brutality 
of this suggestion fails to kill her love for him, and she 
eventually falls in with his proposal. 

The book is powerfully written, and touches with 
a sure hand the mysteries of human existence, while 
displaying an infinite pity for the sorrows, whether 
of the spirit or the flesh, of suffering humanity. 

Besides her novels, Yvette Guilbert has written 
a great number of articles at various times, mostly 
on the subject of the stage. At the time when she 
was rehearsing for " L'Eau Trouble " at Brussels, 
she contributed to the " Revue Nationale " an article 
on the difficulties and trials which beset the lot of 
the ordinary actress on the stage, and the qualifica- 
tions which are necessary for success, in the course 
of which she says : 

" That she must have talent is, of course, under- 
stood, but can an actress reap the reward of her 
talents if she is unattractive in face and figure ? 

" There is hardly a single known instance on the 
stage of a successful actress who has not a certain 
amount of personal charm, for the public resolutely 
refuse to allow of any physical defects in their stage 
heroines, however willing they may be to tolerate 
them in private life. 

"It is true that plenty of men fall in love with un- 
attractive and even ugly women ; but that is only 
natural, after all, seeing that the greater majority 
of human beings present, in face and figure, subjects 


that no painter or sculptor would dream of using 
as a model. 

" Who amongst us does not know of people, either 
relations or friends, who have been the heroes or 
heroines of romantic marriages, who are toothless or 
bald, have red noses, wrinkles, eyes as dull as ditch- 
water, badly-shaped ears, and necks that are either 
scraggy or else too fleshy ; people who stoop, are 
undersized or hopelessly stout, and have ugly hands 
and feet ? And yet we accept them for what they 
are, without a thought of criticising them, simply 
because our eyes have got used to seeing them every 
day. Our streets are moving museums of human 
imperfections ; a glance round our restaurants will 
bear out the truth of my statement. Everyone 
seems indifferent to the universal ugliness which 
surrounds us on all sides. But on the stage it is 
quite another matter. There the demand is all for 
heroes and heroines of surpassing beauty. 

" Stage heroines must have eyes, such eyes ! lively, 
tender, or dreamy, it matters not which, so long as 
they be beautiful. And as for their mouths, they 
must be filled with pearls, a natural brilliancy must 
light up their countenances ; and their skin must 
be like velvet. Beautiful shimmering hair, ears 
small and well-shaped, neck slender and graceful, 
and altogether attractive ; elegant shoulders, back 
nicely curved, alluring hips and a well-turned leg, 
dainty feet and hands ; these are a few of the qualities 
which they are expected to possess. And to these 
must be added the power to evoke laughter or tears 


at a moment's notice, to be, in fact, tuned up to the 
highest pitch of nervous sensibility at a fixed hour 
every night, the hour for which the public have paid 
anything ranging from eighteenpence to half-guinea. 

" Their private anxieties and worries must be 
vigorously kept in the background ; no trace of them 
must be allowed to appear on faces which have to 
smile to order, the order of the public. No matter 
if one be physically or mentally ill, an aching heart 
must be hidden by a smiling face, and one's nerves 
be at the mercy of one's audience night after 

" Nor is this all. The great public, which is engaged 
in a struggle for a livelihood, and knows only too well 
what the expenses of maintaining a family or a 
household are, dresses itself, for the most part, with 
moderation, decently enough of course, but still within 
the bounds of reasonable expenditure. But this 
same public expects very different things from the 
actress. She must wear expensive ' toilettes,' jewels, 
a constant succession of elegant gowns. It demands, 
in fact, from the ' femme de theatre ' what it would 
never dare to ask of a woman in private life without 
running the risk of being thought exacting to the 
point of absurdity : talent, beauty, elegance, youth, 
good health, intelligence." 

After dealing, in her own free and candid fashion, 
with the terrible struggles experienced by many 
actresses in trying to " keep up appearances " to the 
extent demanded of them on totally inadequate 
means, she goes on to speak of the more fortunate, 


the actresses who are married, and, moreover, happily 

" There are some married actresses whose ' menages ' 
are the envy of certain simple-minded people, who 
cannot understand how women who earn their living 
on the stage find it possible to be so happy in their 
home life, and to become devoted wives and mothers. 
But it is largely, after all, a matter of education and of 
sentiment, the outcome of a wide experience of life, 
which gives them a charitable outlook, based on 
their knowledge of human weaknesses, and renders 
them very readily prone to forgive the frailties of 
mankind. Such women as these need neither sermon 
nor gospel ; theirs is the religion of the heart ; they 
are virtuous for the mere delight of being virtuous ; 
and the peaceful joys of the domestic hearth and 
the merry laughter of children are all the happiness 
they need. These are the pleasures that lighten 
their daily labour ; and when at meal-time the whole 
family is gathered round the table, happiness, I can 
assure you, reigns supreme. Actress mothers are 
delightful beings ! " 

And of the actress's inner life she says : 
" In the life of every true artist there are hours 
devoted to study, to solitude, or to reading. Sculpture, 
music, painting, all have something to contribute 
to her knowledge of her own art ; from them she can 
always derive something in the way of inspiration. 
To the reflective mind nothing is altogether immaterial 
or irrelevant, Nature's colour effects, the freshness 
of spring, the melancholy of autumn, can all be 


reduced to a matter of material comparison, and 
brought to bear upon such things as the colour of 
one's frock, or the result of certain light effects, 
and the art of blending perpetual youth with the 
experience of maturity. The true artist can find 
pleasure in everything, because everything, in one 
sense or another, is only a reflection of life itself." 

There is another article by Yvette Guilbert which 
may be fittingly quoted, since it reveals very fully 
the nature and extent of her dramatic outlook. In 
it she deals with the standard which we may reason- 
ably expect of the actress of the future, and the 
ideals to which she may attain. 

"The Actress of To-morrow ^ 

" The actress of to-morrow must not imitate her 
comrade of to-day, who learns, when she learns at all, 
while she is producing, without giving a thought 
to the fact that her total ignorance of letters and of 
art of all kinds makes her a doubtful scholar and 
an actress of undoubted inferiority. She may have 
talent — ' a certain amount of talent ' — but how much 
more she would have and how much finer would 
its quality be if she had acquired some of the know- 
ledge which she ought to possess ! 

" The actress of to-morrow will start upon a more 
solid basis. To begin with, and above all, she will 
speak several languages, so that her renown need 
not be mechanically confined to one country. Even 

^ By kind permission of the " Evening Standard." 


(From a caricature by Brod, a Hnnslarian caricaturist. Her tenner pianist, Mr. Arclianiband, 
now conductor at the Opera de la Gaite, Paris, is seen at the piano.) 


now, those actresses who are content with the success 
which they obtain at home hem their fame between 
very narrow boundaries, and can necessarily never 
become popular favourites (' les grandes populaires ') 
or universal celebrities. As their careers are small 
ones, so of necessity are their reputations limited, 
and it is needless to add that by their ignorance of 
foreign languages they lessen the field of their activity. 

" The actress of to-morrow will belong to Paris 
and to London, to Berlin, to New York, to every- 
where. She will act in French, in English, and in 
German, wherever her presence may be called for. 
All stages will be * her stage ' ; she will be summoned 
to create a part here or there, wherever the creation 
may be wanted ; she will not vegetate in one single 
capital, waiting perforce for ' the part,' ' the author,' 
' the engagement,' or ' the manager ' ; but, well edu- 
cated, fond of travel, and in possession of several 
languages, she will be the chosen interpreter of the 
work of the men of letters of her own and of other 
countries, and she will be somebody to be reckoned 
with, for she will add the elegance and charm of the 
Frenchwoman to her own natural talent. 

" Shakespeare and Goethe interpreted by a French- 
woman whose English and whose German are as 
pure as her French ! Imagine the glorious chances 
of the actress of to-morrow ! Of course, she must 
be neither too small nor too thin, for heroines re- 
quire majesty and stature. These are two necessary 
decorative adjuncts. 

" There will be a very great reform which will be of 


immense benefit to the actress of to-morrow. She 
will be obliged to spend a term — the length of which 
will depend on her activity and her intelligence — 
in a college created specially for her benefit. This 
institution, ' The College of Literary Instruction,' 
will have one object — namely, that of affording the 
intellectual nourishment to her powers of expression 
and of impression, which are quite indispensable 
to every woman destined for the stage. 

" So shall we have no more debutantes of eighteen 
either on free stages or in theatres where subsidies 
are paid, but from the age of eighteen to the age 
of twenty-four women will have a course of serious 
preparatory study in a literary college and a school 
of acting. For in our day the actress — who is, mind 
you, the interpreter in act and gesture of the thought 
of the man of letters — knows little or nothing about 
literature. This A B C of her profession will be taught 
her through books, by means of lessons to which she 
will have to listen, which she must learn, and which 
she will be expected to discuss, and this groundwork 
of knowledge will be the lifebuoy of the actress of 

" At the School of Literary Instruction she will 
learn of the great and tragic episodes of Greek and 
Roman history. In our day the only insight into 
the life, customs, and the tortured souls of the heroes 
of the old tragedies which an actress obtains before 
she is asked to play the part of one of them is very 
often gathered from the small paper-covered book 
which is given her to study at the tragedy class. 


And she is so lost in the strange company of these 
formidable personages, to whom she attempts to 
give life and movement with the help of the advice 
of a counsellor, who is often little more informed 
than she herself, that she plays her part with a 
diminished horizon, which her adviser — even if he 
have the power — has rarely time to widen or interest 
in widening, and makes her little gestures in a fog. 

" The actress of to-morrow will be spared this art 
which has no truth or conscience. She will learn 
and will know more about Socrates than the unvarying 
hemlock draught which pictures have perpetuated ; 
she will become familiar with the great past of bronze 
and fire, the sumptuous and sanguinary combats 
from which emerged, victorious or vanquished, the 
legendary heroines whom she will be expected to 
portray. Which of the tragico-classic actresses who 
made their debuts yesterday have had the honesty 
to grope for knowledge of the past elsewhere than 
in the Greco-Roman novels which have chanced 
to be in fashion at the moment ? I know more than 
one actress for whom ' Quo Vadis ' epitomises all 
her knowledge of antiquity. 

" The actress of to-morrow will refuse to clothe 
Agrippina or Flavia in ' Liberty ' fabrics, she will 
not let Messalina flit about the stage in a spangled 
tunic, and her Cleopatra will have the terra-cot ta 
face which nature gave her. 

" The actress of to-morrow will know how to draw, 
and how to take advantage of the treasures in our 
museums. She will know what difference to make be- 


tween the types of a Greek, a Roman, or an Egyptian ; 
she will know that a courtesan of Alexandria does 
not resemble a Roman or an Athenian courtesan 
either in line or in walk ; she will know how to trace 
the arch of her eyebrows and the bows of her lips 
in accordance with the people and the country to 
which she belongs, and will no longer paint herself 
in unvarying pink and white, characterless and without 
either imagination or discrimination. 

" Having thus learned something, having thus gained 
from the literature she has absorbed a reserve fund of 
intellectuality, or, if you prefer it, a solid foundation 
of knowledge, the actress of to-morrow will become 
an intelligent, enlightened, and well-informed inter- 
preter of literary effort, to whose highl37-strung sensi- 
bility the genius of great writers wOl lend wings for 
her flight into the realms of Phantasy and Dream- 
land. The school of literature will have prepared 
her, logically and progressively, for the journey. 

" This school would also, and this will be quite 
indispensable, organise travelling lectures for its 
pupils, not only round the museums of France, but also 
to those abroad. Something might be organised 
in the nature of a Prix de Rome, which would be 
awarded to the most successful student of literature, 
and which would throw open to her not only the doors 
of the Conservatoire but the gates of Italy. A sojourn 
there would be of inestimable value to the dramatic 
artist, for where is the professor who can teach plastic 
art with the maestria of Michael Angelo ? Titian 
and Rubens are excellent masters in attitudes, poses. 


and in colouring of costume and of scenery. What 
educated actress could fail to be usefully impressed 
by the literature of the Primitive school ? The 
actress of to-morrow will undoubtedly gain inspiration 
there, and learn from the primitive masters how to 
reduce Truth to its most simple expression in a soul, 
or in a gesture, for the actress of to-morrow is sym- 
bolised in the work of Van Eyck or of Memling. 

" There are Phedres and Medeas to be seen in the 
faces of several of the martyrs in the pictures of 
Guido Reni, and I have seen the misery of Marguerite 
Gauthier in the faces of his women who follow our 
Lord. What actress will convey the intense sadness 
of expression in the face of a Mater Dolorosa drawn 
by Boecklin ? What marquises, soubrettes, and 
ingenues of the seventeenth and eighteenth century 
can be better than those of W^atteau, Lancret, Greuze, 
and Fragonard ? Those actresses who play ' les 
grandes coquettes ' will have Gainsborough to dress 
them, and to teach them, too, the haughty and 
disdainful pose which fits their part. 

" There are mouths which an actress must see before 
she can give expression with genius and with success 
to terror, grief, joy, prayer, and love. There are 
hands which an actress must see to realise what 
fingers can and must be able to express. Art has 
all arts for its servants, and inspiration comes from 
nature, colour, from sonorous sound, from marble, 
and from everything. And that is why the time 
will come when our French stage-craft will require 
from its apostles a cultivated and a solid art basis. 


" Ignorant enthusiasts, of course, learn little by 
little as they go on producing, but the actress of 
to-morrow will be spared this additional fatigue and 
loss of time during her creative period, for it is then 
that she will have need of all her physical strength. 
The actress of to-morrow — and this will be one of her 
greatest victories — will be no mere doll woman to 
pander to desire. She will not have to struggle any 
longer against doubtful prejudice and against social 
offence. Serious books will have taught her morally, 
and the simplicity of her attitude will defend her 
against all attack upon her private sentiments. In 
her the woman will disappear, yielding her throne, a 
throne which this time will be respected, to the High 
Priestess of Expression, Priestess of Noble Thought, 
and her efforts will not be without effect upon her 
wisdom, for much reading of the works of the philos- 
ophers will have freed her from exaggerated ambitions 
and puerile vanities. She will pa^^ more attention 
to the appearance of her soul than to that of her face. 
When abroad, she will cleanse her heart of grease 
paint, as well as her mouth and lips. She will love 
glory as she will love health, neither more nor less, 
with a calm and a wise heart. In the hour of the 
dusk and the silence she will strengthen her hope 
of a love which shall be honourable and safe, for 
the actress of to-morrow, having a better education 
and knowing more, will be a better woman. The 
horizon of her desires and her duties will be far beyond 
the footlights which bum and blind her. The glitter 
of the spangles of the actress of to-day will be 


dulled in the case of the actress of to-morrow, whose 
taste will be more chastened and refined. She will 
imitate certain Englishwomen with whom the stage 
was the glorious complement of the life of a wife 
and of a mother. With Marcus Aurelius as her 
counsellor, she will know how to drop her last curtsey 
to Glory, and, as Ecclesiastes has taught her that 
happiness consists in living happily with the object 
of her love, the actress of to-morrow will bury 
the ' pretty little woman ' (' la petite femme ') of 



Of Yvette Guilbert's personality, apart from her 
public life, a great deal could be written. Much of 
it is revealed in her writings ; but one cannot from 
them gather anything like an adequate impression 
of her extraordinary personal charm, her subtle 
wit and keen sense of humour ; her broad and tolerant 
outlook upon life and humanity ; her unwearying 
charity and kindness of heart. Only a year or two 
ago she founded an institute for supplying dresses 
to poor actresses who were anxious to make their 
debut upon the stage. Success has not spoilt her ; 
it has, on the contrary, made her more generous, 
more sympathetic, more warm-hearted, and withal 
more fascinating and delightful a personality than 
ever. Those who would know more of " Yvette — 
the Woman," may turn to an appreciation of her, 
part of which appeared in " The Mask " in September 
1908,^ written by one who has for many years been 
intimately acquainted with Yvette Guilbert and 
her art — Mr Haldane Macfall, Speaking of the early 
days of her career, he says : 

" She was a slender Parisian girl in those days, 

* Reprinted by kind permission of the author and the proprietors 
of " The Mask." 


scarce out of her teens. But that slender girl had 
the innate instinct for art in her every fibre. It was 
this slender girl that, by the illumination of her 
genius and a dogged and forthright will, determined 
to rid the music-hall of the indecent and suggestive 
vulgarities that, until her coming, had been the 
atmosphere and essence of the theatre of varieties 
in Paris. When Yvette Guilbert appeared on the 
boards of the music-hall, the Chansonniers, the poetic 
makers of the French lyric, were gone — for ten years 
they had ceased from weaving verse. 'Tis true the 
satiric song existed — it exists always — in Montmartre ; 
but it is a passing thing, its field narrow, its subject 
fatiguing, its horizon petty — the same jests, the 
same personalities, upon the celebrities of the theatre 
or government of the day, or such like. This little 
more than girl turned to the best of the living poets, 
and the poets eagerly answered her call to the up- 
raising of the song of France. The vulgarities gave 
place to astounding artistry. The theatre of varieties 
rose to the dignity of a place of art. She brought 
the humorous and pathetic songs of the students 
of the Latin quarter to life — the struggles, the happy 
laughter at the struggles, the gaiety, the loves and 
trials of youth. She made the stage to blossom with 
the ancient balladry of France, and wove with exquisite 
skill the atmosphere of Watteau across the scene. 
She brought back to life, raised from the very dead, 
the beautiful country ballads and carols that once 
were the music of the peasants, and made romance 
in the life of the village from Yuietide to St Martin's 


Mass. She gave power and significance to the fierce 
irony and bitter suffering of modem France. She, 
this marvellous woman, built up this splendour — 
evoking it out of the place that had aforetime been 
but the home of rough laughter or the suggestive 

" And she came to the business well dowered 
by her fairy godmother with marvellous and wide- 
ranging gifts. I know no one who has a larger sym- 
pathy with, and insight into, the several arts. Her 
intuition, and her appreciation of the arts, are pro- 
digious, whether literature in verse or prose, painting 
or music, or the dramatic statement of these. But 
these gifts had ended in pedantry, exquisite pedantry 
it is true, but pedantry and technique nevertheless, 
had she not been born with a heart as large as a 
cathedral. Yvette's sympathy with the sufferings 
of her race, her pride in the human achievement, 
her glory in the heroism of the people, her pity for 
the crushed and the maimed, her bitter detestation 
of all that is contemptible, these are at the foundations 
and make the structure of her exquisite achievement. 
These things are the breath of her compelling genius. 
And all this it is that projects itself across the footlights 
to us, and seizes upon our imagination, and wins 
us in the presence of her magnetic personality that 
gives itself forth in the charm of her subtle and 
elaborate art. 

" It is claimed for Yvette Guilbert that she had 
found in the old romantic French songs a higher field 
for her astounding artistry than was hers before. I 


(From a caiicatnic by Charles Liaiulic.) 


cannot bow to this. I never saw her, even in the very 
eariiest days, but that she was a woman of genius. 
Whatsoever she touches she makes into a work of 
art. She is, within the hmits imposed upon her by 
the music-hall, as supreme a genius as ever stepped 
the stage. It could not be otherwise, for it were 
impossible to state with more exquisite beauty and 
perfection and power the emotions that she essays 
to arouse. The gamut of the emotions (the sole 
instrument of any artist whatsoever) aroused by her 
ranges from sordid to sublime tragedy, from low to 
light comedy, from pathos to quaint whimsicality ; 
and she plays each part with unerring surety and 
finesse ; above all, she convinces — for, whilst she 
holds the stage, we walk by way of her personality 
throughout the experience of every emotion that 
she would make us feel. 

" It is astounding what sense she wrings from every 
syllable, from every phrase, of the balladry and songs 
she transmutes into dramatic gems. Her pantomime, 
her gesture, her inflection of voice, and her employment 
of the utterances of the throat, to express the passions 
and emotions that may be conveyed by words, are 
a revelation of the power that lies within the words. 
And it is precisely in his achievement in this realm 
that an actor is a creative artist or merely a clever 
and accomplished mimic. 

" I have heard^ the greatest singers, with all their 
most perfect command of music, give the song of 
' Coming through the Rye.' I had read it again and 
again. But it was only when I heard it delivered 


by Yvette Guilbert, in a tongue that is alien to her, 
bringing out with all the searching skill of her in- 
quisitive genius the lusty womanhood of the country 
girl, that I first realised the real significance and the 
full intention of the famous lyric, 

" And it is exactly this deep understanding that 
lies behind all the technical perfection of her artistry ; 
it is exactly by virtue of her wide and gracious 
sympathy with humanity that she rises above all the 
artifice of craftsmanship, and compels our homage. 
It is owing to this profound communion with the great 
emotions, that amidst the applause of gently-mannered 
women or the cheers of strong men, which suddenly 
burst forth on every side at her song's ending, we 
find ourselves no longer seated, but risen to our feet, 
violent partakers in that hail of enthusiasm that 
greets this gracious gentlewoman — the blood stirring, 
the senses thrilled, as we find ourselves, half unwitting 
of it, joining the thunder of acclaim : 

' YvETTE Guilbert ! ' 

" To whatsoever Yvette gives her glorious genius 
she brings distinction. The limits of her range 
it were difficult to define. In comedy or tragedy, 
laughter or tears, Yvette is an evoker of the dramatic 
such as a people rarely produce more than once. 
When we consider for a moment what she creates 
out of an English country-song, remembering that 
the very speech of it is foreign to her ears ; when 
we hear and see her utter a lilt that has been familiar 
to us from childhood, and gaze in surprise to find 


how little we understood it until the searching genius 
of this graceful and gifted Frenchwoman came to 
reveal it to us ; when we consider that this is but 
a tithe of her large achievement, but a small part 
of her superb artistry ; when we meditate upon the 
overwhelming fact that not the greatest of actresses 
could produce out of a song the large drama, whether 
of tragedy or comedy, the volume of laughter, or 
tears, or pity, or regret, or the like emotions into which 
this one woman standing alone before the footlights 
can at her mere willing sway us, we must surely pay 
her the scant homage of admitting that she is one 
of the supreme geniuses who ever trod the boards. 

" Yet vast as is her achievement to-day, and 
vast her triumph ; deeper and wider, more profoundly 
as she has developed her art, to me the days when 
I first saw Yvette, a slender girl, leap into her early 
success in the early ' nineties ' will always hold a 
significance apart. Well, we were all young in the 
Quarter then — the world before us. Youth is a 
wondrous glory ; and what a youth it was, with 
Yvette in song, and Steinlen and Leandre and Toulouse 
— Lantrec and the other youngsters making their art, 
and poor Salis and mine host ' on the hill ' at the 
old Chat Noir, and the young poets singing like an 
aviary, and the whole pack of us not giving a tinker's 
trough for the policeman or governments or ministers 
or kings ! " 

In looking back upon Yvette Guilbert's career 
one is imbued more than anything with an impression 


of indomitable courage ; a courage that, in the face 
of many faihires and disappointments, the ups and 
downs inseparable from an artistic career, has yet 
pursued its way unfalteringly towards the destined 
goal. " An artist's life ought to have experienced 
every kind of difficulty and trouble," she said once : 
" I have known those of poverty, failure, and ill- 

Now that she has won triumphs as a singer, as an 
actress, as an author, one wonders in what direction 
her genius will shine next. No doubt she has up 
her sleeve some fresh surprise in store ; for hers is 
a genius that is never satisfied, that never stands still ; 
but, ever seeking new spheres of conquest, pushes 
on unceasingly towards that great goal, Perfection, 
which is the aim of every true artist since the world 





In dealing with a repertoire so vast and so varied 
as that possessed by Yvette Guilbert, it is impossible 
to do more than glance at a few of the most famous 
songs which she has created, and more especially 
those which she has made familiar to London audiences. 
These songs may, for the sake of convenience, be 
divided into three heads : — (i) Chansons Modemes ; 
(2) Chansons Pompadour ; (3) Chansons Crinoline ; 
and though there are others which cannot be said 
to come under any one of these heads, the classification 
will serve its purpose well enough. 

Her range of English songs is, naturally, not so 
wide. But no one can easily forget her delightful 
and very individual rendering of " The Keys of 
Heaven," which is a complete comedy in itself, a 
comedy of exquisite sentiment. Even of a song of 
the feeble, nerveless order, like " Mary was a House- 
maid," she is able to make almost a work of art, 
by her treatment of the humming refrain, so varied, 
and so deliciously droll, that the song stands out as 
a thing transformed, and becomes invested with a 
world of meaning that it never possessed before. 
And in her singing of Old English Folk-songs she is 


almost as much at home as in her lighter French 
chansons, to which they bear a certain amount of 
resemblance. The fragrant old-world humour of 
such songs as " I'm Seventeen come Sunday," " The 
Dumb Wife Cured," and " With my Holyday Gown," 
and many others of the kind, is a thing after Yvette 
Guilbert's own heart, and, as may be expected, she 
makes the most of it. 

But it is, of course, as a singer of French songs, 
grave and gay, that she will go down to posterity, 
and for nothing will she be better remembered than for 
her rendering of those " terrible " songs, the Chansons 
Modemes, with which, in her long black gloves, she 
took London by storm at the Empire Theatre sixteen 
years ago. 



Undoubtedly the most famous of all these songs, 
and the one which created the greatest impression 
at the time, was " La Soiilarde." 

A study of the actual words of the song, written 
by Jules Jouy, will bring back to the minds of many 
the picture of that tall slim figure, in long black gloves, 
depicting for us, with a wonderful realism that was 
yet free from all suggestion of vulgarity, the poor 
old drunken derelict of the streets. This song has 
by many been counted as Yvette Guilbert's master- 
piece ; it was a revelation to those who heard it, 
a revelation not only of the singer's genius, but of 
something new and hitherto undreamt of in the 
power of song as a medium of dramatic expression. 


On n'lui connait aucun parent ; 
A Clichy, pour cent francs par an^ 
A couch' par terr', dans un' mansarde. 
La sofilarde. 

Des le matin, on peut la voir, 
Sur le pave, sur le trottoir, 
Cheminer, la mine hagarde, 
La soularde. 



Un ancien chale a mem' la peau, 
Coiffe d'travers d'un vieux chapeau, 
En marchant, tout' seule^ a bavarde. 
La soillarde. 

Les mastroquets, I'air rigolo, 
Sur le seuil de leur caboulot, 
Se disent : " Elle a sa cocarde, 
La sotilarde." 

Chien egare cherchant son trou, 
Parfois, allant sans savoir ou, 
Loin d'la barriere ell' se hasarde, 
La soiilarde. 

Un tas de gamins I'entourant, 
Criant, chantant, sautant, courant, 
Escortant ainsi qu'une garde, 
La soiilarde, 

Mais elle, indifferente a tout, 
Va devant elle, n'importe ou, 
Alors, de cailloux on bombarde. 
La soWarde. 

Sensible a ce brutal affront, 
Du sang lui coulant sur le front, 
Eir se retourne et les regarde. 
La soiilarde. 

Tons interrompant leurs lazzi, 
Filent, le coeur d'effroi saisi, 
Devant les regards que leur darde. 
La sotilarde. 


Au milieu des passants surpris, 
Baladant I'vice en cheveux gris, 
Pour star, elle est vraiment tocarde. 
La soOlarde. 

Pourtant, ouvrier ou gamin, 
Laisse la passer son chemin. 
Qui sait le noir souci que garde, 
La sofilarde ? 

Peut-etre que pleurant un fils, 
Songeant au bonheur de jadis, 
Le soir, ell' trouv'que sa fin tarde, 
La soQlarde. 

An elaborate and masterly analysis of this song, 
by Mr Stanley V. Makovver, appeared in his article 
in the " Yellow Book," already referred to, and may 
be fitly quoted here, with all due acknowledgment 
to author and publisher. 

" It was Yvette Guilbert herself who suggested 
the idea of a woman half craz}^ with drink lurching 
along the street with madness and disease in her 
eyes. Jouy wrote the song and gave it to her, saying, 
' I have written a masterpiece, but I don't know 
whether you will make anything of it.' Then Yvette 
Guilbert took it and studied it with all that power 
of intensification which is her peculiar gift. She 
decided the character of the melody that was to be 
used, by constant recourse to the piano to try different 
effects. Finally, when the song was sung Zola was 
wild with enthusiasm, and the whole of Paris rang 
with applause. Certainly the song is admirably 


written. There is truth in its simpHcity, a directness 
of purpose, a perfect knowledge of the requirements 
of the art ; but no one from reading the poem could 
dream of the extraordinary thing which Yvette 
Guilbert would create from it. She threw into it 
all her imagination, and out of the bare words sprang 
a beauty which baffled every one. When it was sung 
in London the audience were taken by storm, and yet 
not one half of them could understand the meaning of 
the words. At the end of the verse which describes 
the people throwing cabbages and rubbish at the 
drunken woman as she lurches along, Yvette GuUbert 
throws her head back and breaks the final syllable of 
the refrain " La Soiilarde " (the " arde " in Soularde) 
into a cry of two notes. It would scarcely be too 
much to call this the greatest moment that has 
ever been brought off in executory art. It takes 
your breath away. The whole scene rushes on 
the mind with a force that is overwhelming. You 
positively see the drunken woman, with dishevelled 
hair and bloodshot eyes, reeling down the street, 
pursued by a jeering crowd — but in the meanwhile 
Yvette Guilbert, in modern evening dress, is standing 
comparatively still on the stage with that back- 
ground representing a Mauresque palace which 
has become a traditional drop-scene at the Empire 

The effect that Yvette Guilbert produces is far 
removed from that produced by any external realism. 
If we were to see a person imitate accurately a drunken 
woman — so accurately, in fact, that, were it not for 


the stage, we should be unable to guess that she was 
acting, we should feci much the same physical disgust 
that is aroused in us when we see a damken woman 
reeling down the street. We should be no more 
edified than b}^ the ingenuity of tlie man who exhibited 
a picture with a real face peering through the canvas. 
But when Yvette Guilbert is telling you about the 
drunken woman, though you shudder, it is not with 
disgust — for the thing is transfigured by her into 
something different. You see the scene, but you 
see it in a new light, with something of the light 
which goes to make the genius of the performer, and 
which she has such a rare power of communicating. 
When she steps outside the characters of the scene, 
crying out against the profanity of ridicule and 
raising a plea for the woman to pass unmolested, 
she conveys in her voice a suggestion of that universal 
humanity which binds the world together. The 
subtlety of this is indescribable. It reaches its climax 
again in the refrain " La Soularde," sung this time 
in a way which makes us feel at one moment both 
the infinite pity of the spectator and the crushing 
weariness of the woman. It is just this poetry 
of vision which robs these songs of all their horror, 
for it is in the beautifying of the terrible that lies the 
supremacy of her art." 

Perhaps the other song of this class which made 
the greatest impression on English minds, a song 
that is just as vivid and realistic to us when Yvette 
Guilbert smgs it to-day, is " Ma Tete." 



Le long des fortifications, 
Y'a pas d'erreur, c'est moi Tplus bath, 
Avec ma casquette a trois ponts 
Et men foulard rouge ecarlate 
Les copains, moi, j'les degott' tous, 
J'leur ai soul've plus d'un' conquete 
Auss' r'gard'nt-ils d'un ceil jaloux 
Ma tete ! 

Les mom's, ell's tomb'nt en pamoison. 
Ell's voudraient tout's dev'nir ma femme, 
Moi, j'y mets pas d'opposition, 
C'est mon metier d'etr' polygame ; 
J'suis bien tranquil', sans m'emouvoir, 
J'ai tou jours pas mal de galette, 
Via c'que c'est que d'bien fair' valoir 
Ma tete ! 

Quand un sergot, d'un air malin, 
Essay' de fair' d'la rouspetance, 
Je te I'retourn' comme un lapin 
C'est pas ma faut', j'ai pas d'patience ; 
Tu parl's, si je I'passe a tabac 
Mem' s'il est fort comme un athlete 
J'y coir dans I'creux d'son estomac 
Ma tete ! 

Quand vient la nuit, pour travailler, 
J 'attends derriere un' port' cochere 
Le bourgeois qui vient d'ripailler, 
Et j'y fais viv'ment son affaire. 
Alors, quand il est sur le flanc, 
Et qu' la lune eclair' ma silhouette 
I' crach' son am' rien qu'en voyant 
Ma tete ! 

(Front a liimchtii by Cliijilcs Liandir.) 


Fatal'ment, je s'rai condamne. 
Car y s'ra prouve qu'j'assassine, 
Faudra qu'j 'attend', blemc et vanne, 
L'instant suprem' d'la guillotine, 
Alors un beau jour on m'dira : 
C'est pour c'matin, fail's vot' toilette ; 
J'sortirai, la foul' salu'ra 
Ma tete ! 

This is one of the few songs in which Yvette Guilbert 
makes use of any extraneous aid in the way of costume. 
She wears the peculiar black cap of the Paris hooligan, 
and uses it, in the last verse, with terrible effect. 
No one who has heard her sing this song can ever 
forget the wonderful way in which she depicts the 
recklessness, the strange strain of vanity, and the 
devil-may-care humour which go to make the char- 
acter of this type of wasted humanity, born and 
brought up in an atmosphere of criminal viciousness. 
For the moment it is not Yvette Guilbert who stands 
there, singing of this curious creature, but the creature 
himself, revealing to us all the fantastic sidelights of 
his depraved nature. Vicious he may be, and wholly 
bad ; but we cannot resist a sneaking sympathy 
for him, as he goes on his way to his predestined end. 
After all, he never had a chance of being anything 
better. He deserved his end, of course, but only 
because Fate made him what he was. This is the 
feeling that Yvette Guilbert imparts to her inter- 
pretation of the song, and she carries you with her 
by the sheer force of her impersonation. The various 
intonations, each conveying a different and subtle 


shade of meaning, with which she renders the two 
words which constitute the refrain, " Ma Tete," 
the play of her facial expression, and, above all, 
of her eyes, as the story gradually draws towards 
its tragic climax, are things that dwell indelibly 
in the memory. And then the breathless silence 
which accompanies the words : 

" J'sortirai, la foul' salu'ra " 

the pause during which she removes the black cap 
from her head and holds it out at arm's length ; 
the dull thud with which the cap falls to the ground ; 
and then the final despairing cry — really more of 
a gasp than a cry : 

" Ma Tete ! *' 

A song very similar in character, but lacking, 
perhaps, a little of the intensely vivid realism of 
" Ma Tete," is Aristide Bruant's " A La Villette." 
Though not so well known as others of these tragedies 
of the Paris streets, it is well worth quoting for its 
own sake, as being typical of the class of song which 
it represents, and also for the fact that it was one 
of the four songs sung by Yvette Guilbert on her 
first appearance at the Empire in May 1894. 


II avait pas encor' vingt ans. 
I'connaissait pas ses parents, 
On I'app'lait Toto Laripette 
A la Villette. 


II etait un peu sans fa9on, 
Mais c'etait un joli gar^on : 
C'etait I'plus beau, c'etait I'plus chouette 
A la Villette. 

II etait pas c'qu'y a d'mieux mis, 
II avait pas de beaux habits : 
I' s'rattrapait sur sa casquette 
A la Villette. 

II avait deux p'tits yeux d'souris. 
II avait deux p'tits favoris 
Surmontes d'un'fin' rouflaquette 
A la Villette. 

II avait un gros chien d'bouvier 
Qu'avait un' gross' gueul' de terrier : 
On n'peut pas avoir un' levrette 
A la Villette. 

De sou metier i'faisait rien, 
Dans r jour i'baladait son chien : 
La nuit i' comptait ma galette, 
A la Villette. 

I' m'aimait autant que j'l'aimais. 
Nous nous aurions quittes jamais 
Si la police etait pas faite 
A la Villette. 

Q'on I'prenn' grand ou p'tit, rouge ou brun. 
On peut pas en conserver un : 
I' s'en vont tous k la Roquette 
A la Villette. 


La dernier' fois que je I'ai vu, 
II avait I'torse a moitie nu, 
Et le cou pris dans la Lunette 
A la Roquette. 

This song, as I have said, is somewhat similar to 
" Ma Tete " in character. Here once again we liave 
the Paris hooligan — " only twenty and never knew his 
parents " — and the inevitable apotheosis of all such 
poor unhappy flotsam on the sea of life : 

" I' s'en vont tous a la Roquette." 

There are two other songs of this class which 
deserve passing mention, both written by RoUinat. 
They are " LTdiot " and " Le Convoi Funebre," the 
latter revealing a power of description in the inter- 
preter for which it would be hard to find a parallel. 
One almost saw, in listening to the song, the simple 
funeral cortege wending its way through the fog, 
as the pauper went to his last long home. 

" Le mort s'en va dans le brouillard, 
' Avec sa limousine en planches." 

It was in these songs, and others of a similar nature, 
that Yvette Guilbert fought her way through pre- 
judice and convention to a success that in the space 
of a few short months was to become certain and 
assured — not for a year, but for all time. 



When Yvette Guilbert came to London again in 
1904, ten years after her first appearance, she brought 
with her, as we have already seen, an entirely different 
style of song to the Chansons Modemes. These were 
the songs of old France, the Chansons Pompadour 
and the Chansons Crinoline. Of the former, which 
mostly date from the seventeenth and eighteenth 
centuries, there is, first of all, the altogether delicious 
" Le Cure de Pomponne." 

In this song the spirit of comedy reigns all supreme. 
The village maiden, going to confess to the village 
priest, falters out a recital of her sin. She has allowed 
a man to kiss her ! Terrible ! says the Cure, she 
must go a pilgrimage to Rome to expiate her offence. 
What, and take my lover with me ? says she. Shame ! 
says the Cure. She evidently delights in her sin, 
instead of being properly penitent. Come, he will 
suggest another and more speedy absolution. She 
shall give him a kiss or two, and so earn forgiveness ! 


A confesse m'en suis alle 
Au cure de Pomponne. 



Le plus gros peche que j'ai fait 
C'est d'embrasser un homme. 

Ah ! il m'en souviendra, 

Du cure de Pomponne. 

Le plus gros peche que j'ai fait 
Fut d'embrasser un homme. 
Ma fille, pour ce peche-la 
II faut aller a Rome. 

Ah ! il m'en souviendra, etc. 

Ma fille, pour ce peche-la 
II faut aller k Rome. 
Dites-moi, monsieur le cure, 

Y menerai-je I'homme ? 

Ah ! il m'en souviendra, etc. 

Dites-moi, monsieur le cure, 

Y menerai-je I'homme ? 

Ah ! vous prenez gout au peche ? 
Je vous entends, friponne. 

Ah ! il m'en souviendra, etc. 

Ah ! vous prenez gout au peche ? 
Je vous entends, friponne. 
Embrassez-moi cinq ou six fois 
Et je vous le pardonne. 

Ah ! il m'en souviendra, etc. 

Embrassez-moi cinq ou six fois 
Et je vous le pardonne. 
Grand merci, monsieur le cure. 
La penitence est bonne. 

Ah ! il m'en souviendra, 

Du cure de Pomponne. 


Nothing short of hearing her sing it can convey 
the sly humour, the sprightliness, the drollery, and 
the spirit of childish gaiety she imparts to the song. 

" Ah ! il m'en souviendra, 

Du cure de Pomponne." 

The refrain is haunting by reason of its very 
simplicity ; and the variety of meanings which she 
manages to convey by her enunciation of the single 
word " Larira " would make enough to fill a whole 
poem. And nothing could be more delightfully 
arch than the air with which she delivers the words 

'' La penitence est bonne." 

Another song in which the village priest plays 
a prominent part is the " Legende Bretonne." But 
here the fair penitent has a different confession to 
make. She has learnt to love the priest himself ! 
" Ah, then we must see one another no more," says 
he. " But then I should die of a broken heart," 
says she. " Then I should bury you," says he. 
" And would you weep ? " asks she. 

" Non, car il faudra chanter, Simonne, ma Simonne, 
Requiescat in pace, 
Ma Mignonne ! " 

In " Les BeUes Manieres " we have a very different 
picture. In this she poses as a " grande dame " 
of the old French Court, reading her daughter a 
gentle lesson in manners. 



Javotte enfin, vous grandissez, 
Venez, il faut que je vous gronde, 
Vous ne vous donnez pas assez 
Les belles manieres du monde ; 

Car c'est comm'fi, 

Car c'est comm'ga, 
Regardez-moij ma fille, 
C'est comm'^i, c'est comm'9a, 
Qu'on fait honneur a sa famille. 

II faut, sans y faire semblant, 
Lorsque vous sortez le dimanche, 
Pour qu'on vous regarde en passant, 
Avoir un certain tour de hanche. 

Car c'est comm'gi, 

Car c'est comm'ga, 
Regardez-moi, ma fille, 
C'est comm'^i, c'est comm'ga, 
Qu'on fait honneur a sa famille. 

Lorsqu'un gentilhomme viendra 
Vous glisser son tendre martyre, 
Vous ne repondrez rien a 9a, 
Mais vous lui ferez un sourire, 

Car c'est comm'^i, 

Car c'est comm'9a, 
Regardez-moi, ma fille, 
C'est comm' 91, c'est comm'9a, 
Qu'on fait honneur a sa famille. 

Un epoux je vous choisirai, 

Vous direz : j'en suis bien contente ; 


Volon tiers je me marierai . . . 

Non pas une fois mais bien trente . . . 

Car c'est comm'gi, 

Car c'est comm'9a, 
C'est le bon ton ma fille, 
C'est comm'9i, c'est comm'9a, 
Que Ton sait faire honneur a sa famille. 

The transformation is complete. She is the " grande 
dame " to the Hfe, with all the languid graces, the 
exaggerated curtseys, the absurd affectation of dig- 
nity, and the smiling superciliousness of the ladies 
of the period. She runs through the whole catalogue 
of virtues, as represented by good manners, with her 

" Car c'est comme'gi, 
Car c'est comme'ga," 

as she indicates each particular smile or posture, 
and one can almost imagine the daughter actually 
sitting there, following with her eyes every move- 
ment of the old lady's, and drinking in the words 
of wisdom that fall from her lips. The song is set to 
an old air that once Marie Antoinette used to hum, 
and its quaintness only serves to strengthen the 
old-world atmosphere which Yvette Guilbert's genius 
so successfully creates. 

Quite different again is " La Mort de Jean Renaud," 
a tragedy of simple pathos. In a song of this kind 
a little exaggeration would spoil the whole effect ; 
but Yvette Guilbert is never exaggerated in anything 
she does, and her rendering of this song is beautifully 
unaffected and sincere. 



Quand Jean Renaud de guerre revint 

Tenant ses boyaux dans ses mains 

Sa mere a la fenetre en haut 

Dit : void v'nir mon fils Renaud ! 

Renaud Renaud rejouis toi 

Ta femme est accouchee d'un roi ! 

Ni de ma femme, ni de mon fils 

Mon coeur ne pout se rejouir 

Je sens la mort qui me transit 

Mere faites dresser un lit ! 

Mais faites le dresser si bas 

Que ma femme n'entende pas. 

Et quand ce fut vers le minuit 

Jean Renaud a rendu I'esprit. 

Ah ! Dites moi mere mamie 

Ce que j'entends clouer ici. 

Ma fille c'est le charpentier 

Qui raccomode I'escalier. 

Ah ! Dites moi mhve mamie 

Ce que j'entends chanter ici. 

Ma fille c'est la procession 

Qui fait le tour de la maison. 

Ah ! Dites moi mere mamie 

Ce que j'entends pleurer ici. 

C'est la voisine d'a cote 

Qui a perdu son nouveau ne. 

Ah dites moi mere mamie 

Pourquoi done pleurez vous aussi ? 

Ma fille ne puis la cacher 

Renaud est mort et enterre. 

Ma m^re dites au fossoyeux 

Qu'il creuse la fosse pour deux ; 


Et que le trou soit assez grand 
Pour qu'on y mcttc aussi I'enfant. 
Terre ouvre toi — terre fends toi 
Que j'aille retrouver mon roi ! 
Terre s'ouvrit — terre se fendit 
t^t la belle rendit I'esprit. 

Jean Renaud comes home from the war, wounded 
to death. His mother greets him joyfully : " Your 
wife has borne you a son ! " " Alas, mother, I shall 
never live to see him ; my hours are numbered. 
Make me a bed whereon to die." And before the night 
had waned he died. Upstairs lay the wife with her 
child dreaming of the day when her husband would 
come back to her and look upon his first-born. 
" Mother, what is that knocking I hear ? " " My 
daughter, it is but the carpenter mending the stairs." 
" Mother, I can hear singing ! " " It is the carol- 
singers, my dear." " But now I hear sounds of 
weeping ? " " It is our neighbour, poor thing, she 
has lost her child." " But, mother, your own eyes 
are wet ? " " My daughter, I cannot hide it any 
longer ; your husband is dead and in his grave ! " 
" Tell them to dig a grave wide enough for two, my 
mother, and for the little one who lies in my arms." 
And so, with a sigh, her spirit fled. 

Of others that might be mentioned there is that 
dainty little idyll, " Est-il done bien vrai ? " : 

Est-il done bien vrai, 

Gentille fillette ! 
Qu'amour vous ait fait 

Le soir en cachette, 
Qu'amour vous ait fait present d'un bouquet ? 


and that stirring ballad entitled " Le Roi a fait battre 
tambour," which tells of a king's offer of a marshal's 
baton to a man whom he is about to dishonour. 
There is also " Le Jaloux et la Menteuse," a domestic 
tragedy of a jealous husband and an erring wife, 
" Le Mort du Mari," grimly cynical ; and " La 
Peureuse," a little naughty, even wicked, but wholly 
delightful as rendered by Yvette Guilbert. 

The Chansons Crinoline, dating from about 1830, 
are closely allied in character to the Pompadour 
songs. Undoubtedly the best known of all, and 
the one that lingers most gratefully in the memory, 
is Beranger's " Ma Grand'mere." 


Ma grand'mere un soir a sa fete 
De vin pur ayant bu deux doigts 
Nous disait en branlant la tete, 
Que d'amoureux j'eus autrefois. * 

Combien je regrette 

Mon bras si dodu, 

Ma jambe bien faite^ 

Et le temps perdu. 

Quoi ! maman, vous n'etiez pas sage ? 
— Non vraiment ; et de mes appas 
Seule a quinze ans j'appris I'usage, 
Car la nuit je ne dormais pas. 
Combien je regrette, etc. 

Maman, Lindor savait done plaire ? 
— Qui, seul il me plut quatre mois ; 


(From a poslcr.) 


Mais bientot j'estimai V'alere, 

Et fis deux heureux a la fois. 

Combien je regrctte, etc. 

Quoi, maman, deux amants ensemble ? 
Oui, mais chacun d'eux me trompa, 
Plus fine alors qu'il ne vous semble, 
J'epousai votre grandpapa. 
Combien je regrette^ etc. 

Maman, que lui dit famille ? 
— Rien, mais un mari plus sense 
E(\t pu connaitre a la coquille 
Que Tocuf etait deja casse. 
Combien je regrette^ etc. 

Comma vous, maman, faut-il faire ? 
— Eh ! mes petits-enfants, pourquoi, 
Quand j'ai fait comme ma grand'mere, 
Ne feriez-vous pas comme moi ? 
Combien je regrette, etc. 

Reference to Yvette Guilbert's rendering of this 
song has already been made by Mr Makower. It 
is, perhaps, one of the most perfect things she does. 
The old lady's half-humorous, half-pathetic regret 
for the days that are gone, and for the charms of her 
departed youth, is tinged with another note, a note 
of defiance, as though she were bidding old age to 
do his worst. And the curious chuckle with which 
she relates the conquests of her younger days is a 
thing delightful to hear. 

Then there is the famous " Les Cloches de Nantes," 


which tells of the escape of a prisoner on the eve 
of his execution, with its familiar refrain 

"Ah! Ah! Ah! 
Ah ! Ah ! Ah ! " 

in which, by the different intonations of lier voice, 
the singer is able to convey every shade of emotion 
from fear to triumph, and the ringing of the bells 


Dans les prisons de Nantes 
II y a un prisonnier, 
II y a un prisonnier ; 
Que personn' ne va voir 
Que la fill' du geolier. 

Ah! Ah! Ah! 

Ah ! Ah ! Ah ! 

Que personn' n'y va voir 
Que la fill' du geofier, 
Que la fill' du geolier ; 
Va lui porter a boire, 
A boire et a manger. 

Ah ! Ah ! Ah ! 

Ah ! Ah ! Ah ! 

Va lui porter a boire^ 

A boire et a manger, 

A boire et a manger ; 

" On dit dans tout' la ville, 

Que demain vous mourrez." 

Ah ! Ah ! Ah ! 

Ah! Ah! Ah! 


Helas si demain je meure, 
Deliez moi les pieds ! 
Deliez moi les pieds ! 
Toutes les cloch's de NanteSj 
Se mirent a sonner. 

Ah! Ah! Ah! 

Ah! Ah! Ah! 

Toutes les cloch's de Nantes. 
Se mirent a sonner, 
Se mirent a sonner ; 
La fillette est jeunette, 
Eir se prit a pleurer. 

Ah! Ah! Ah! 

Ah ! Ah ! Ah ! 

La fillette est jeunette, 
Eir se prit a pleurer, 
Ell' se prit a pleurer ; 
Le prisonnier alerte, 
Dans le fleuve a saute. 

Ah! Ah! Ah! 

Ah ! Ah ! Ah ! 

Le prisonnier alerte, 
Dans le fleuve a saute, 
Dans le fleuve a saute ; 
Vivent les fill's de Nantes, 
Et tous les prisonniers. 

A-i! Ah! Ah! 

Ah ! Ah I Ah 1 

The following vivid description of Yvette Guilbert's 
singing of this song is taken, with permission, from 
Mr Haldane Macfall's article in " The Mask " : — 

" In the prison at Nantes there is a prisoner — a 


prisoner whom no one goes to see, save the daughter 
of the turnkey. Ah ! ah ! ah ! . . . Ah ! ah ! 
ah ! . . . Whom no one ever goes to see save the 
daughter of the turnkey — she who takes him water 
to drink and food to eat, ah ! ah ! ah ! . . . ah ! 
ah ! ah ! ... ah ! ah ! ah ! . . . ' Ah, me ! since 
to-morrow I die, strike the fetters from my feet ! 
Strike the fetters from — my — feet." , . . All the bells 
of Nantes got them a-ringing : Ah ! ah ! ah ! ... 
Ah ! ah ! ah ! All the bells of Nantes got them 
a-ringing. The little maid's a young thing. She 
frees his feet a-weeping. , . . She frees — his — feet — 
a-weeping. Quick the prisoner with a bound leaps 
into the river ; hey ! hey ! hey ! . . . Hey ! hey ! 
hey ! . . . Leaps into the river. . . . So, here's to the 
girls of Nantes ! likewise to all prisoners ! Ho ! 
ho! ho! Ha! ha! Hah! 

" In those all too few swift-speeding minutes of 
song, by her magic of artistry, just standing there in 
that quaint fantastic garb that in no slightest degree 
aids her in actually creating the pictured thing, the 
art's skill of this wonderful woman has banished 
space and time and the dark hushed world of eager 
faces in the surrounding gloom, and we are back to 
the years and air and pathetic winsomeness of the 
old tragi-comedy. We leap into the tide that flows 
by the walls of Nantes, and eagerly, as with the cramped 
limbs of the prisoner, we are breasting that flow 
of waters to the sea ; and, all the while, sounds the 
carillon of bells, that peal forth above the towers 
of Nantes, now sad, now triumphant, now eager, 


now sobbing, running like litany through all the 
adventure of our vision and our hearing ; yet, even 
as the youth stands fetterless and free at an inn at 
last, drinking to the jailor's daughter, the carillon 
sounds the note of pain, contracts one's heart — 
for in the old prison at Nantes there is another 
prisoner, a girl, and there are tears in the eyes 
of the girl who bows her head in the empty cell — 

" This is supreme acting — the indescribable, com- 
summate, compelling thing that no mortal can teach ; 
that it is given only to genius to do. No rule nor 
plummet can measure it ; no laws produce it. 

" It has all been roused in us, this vision and 
emotion, so completely, that one starts at the thunder 
of applause which leaps at the music's ending. Read 
the simple lines in cold blood, and you are filled 
with wonder how from such scant fabric this graceful 
woman has woven so rich a tapestry." 

To these must be added the naive and tender 
song " La Legende de St Nicholas," in which she 
strikes yet a different note, a note of childish innocence 
and glee ; the famous " Les Housards de la Garde," 
with its plaintive recurrent phrase " il etait mon 
amant," into the rendering of which Yvette Guilbei' 
manages to read a hundred different meanings 
and that piquant comedy " Les Rues d'Anjou et de 
Poitou," which tells the love story of Claude and 
Rose, who used to meet every morning where 

" la ru' d'Anjou 
Donn' dans la ru' d'Poitou " : 


and last, but by no means least, " La Fille de Par- 

One might go on writing indefinitely on this subject, 
as one after another of Yvette Guilbert's songs rises 
to the mind, but it is not possible to do more than 
refer to a few of the most typical and the best known. 
Even a casual study of only those songs which have 
been mentioned would be sufficient to reveal the 
infinite range and variety of her repertoire. 

To this repertoire she is even now constantly 
adding. No account of Yvette Guilbert's songs, 
however cursory, would be complete without some 
reference to these later additions. They are for 
the most part of a different type to those already 
mentioned ; and the article in the following chapter, 
kindly written by Mr Haldane Macfall, forms a 
fitting conclusion to the study of this all-engrossing 




(By Haldane Macfall) 

They that have only heard Yvette sing in the music- 
hall have but small acquaintance with the largeness 
and wide range of her astounding genius. In the 
theatre of varieties she is by necessity compelled 
to limit the field of her art within the general com- 
prehension — the more compelled since she speaks 
a foreign tongue. It is at her special concerts, as at 
the aristocratic theatre in Paris, the Gymnase, 
where her now famous " Thursday afternoons " 
(known as " The Yvette Thursdays ") had their 
beginnings, that her genius may be realised at its 
subtlest, its most potent, and its largest flights. 
It is at these Yvette Concerts that you may hear 
her inimitable delivery of the exquisite poesy of 
Francis Jammes ; hear as you have never heard 
the delivery of the tragic and grim intensity of the 
sterner genius of Rollinat and the biting tragic art 
of the school of Baudelaire ; or be charmed with the 
sweet-sad or lighter accent of the dainty word-crafts- 
manship of the eighteenth century. It is not the 
least part of Yvette's bright achievement that she 
has breathed life again into the old French ballad, 



that liad lain so long forgotten, folded and put away 
in lavender in the lumber-rooms of a great people's 
historic and romantic past ; not the least part of her 
wizardry that she has brought before the footlights 
and revived the old English country songs that had 
passed away even from the cottage of the labourer. 
But there is no lyric (given that it held dramatic 
essence) to which the genius and skill in artistry 
of this marvellous woman do not bring an added 
dignity, a wealth of significance, an added intensity 
of purpose, transmuted to its full and most precious 
value by the alchemy of her exquisite perceptions 
and compelling utterance. 

It is astonishing what added beauty she reveals 
in all verse that she declaims to musical refrain. 
Whether the poet's soul be white or scarlet or black, 
Yvette interprets each with just balance and wondrous 

Take the art of Francis Jammes, whom the writers 
of France set upon a throne apart. From the warm 
gentle airs of the foothills of the Pyrenees that bred 
him, he has caught the colour and tenderness of the 
South. He is the modern Jean Jacques Rousseau 
in his love of nature. He creeps into the heart of 
nature, becomes intimate with her, winning her secrets 
from her with all the wheedling simplicity of the trust 
and confidence of a big child. Francis Jammes is 
in strange contrast with the singers of his age that 
bred black pessimism in La Forgue, bitterness in 
Rollinat, grey naturalism in Zola. Amongst these 
he is like a being from another world, a re-incarnation 


of sainthood. He is akin to Saint Francis of Assisi 
— tender, exquisite, his heart going out to all living 
things, with a saint-like simplicity of communion 
with the smallest and weakest creatures of God. 

Listen to Yvette uttering the charm of his exquisite 
lyric " I speak of God " (" Je parle de Dieu "), and you 
realise how she reveals the full significance of his 
delightful and fragrant art, giving it forth with a 
grace, light as thistledown, fragile as gossamer, 
in which the poet, praying as he has been taught 
to pray in childhood at his mother's knee, suddenly 
asks himself the harsh question — " But do I believe ? " 
when — there comes floating to him, out of the past, 
the memory of the days when, as a little child, he 
trudged to the village church of France with his 
nurse — there comes to him the fragrance of the incense, 
the glowing hues of the flowers of gaudily painted 
cotton, the dear, delightful, crudely-coloured jars 
such as one wins in lotteries at country fairs — the 
girls strewing roses before the priests and choristers 
in procession — the sound of the distant monotonous 
chanting of the priest at the high altar, whose words 
were but veriest Greek to him — the reverent hush 
of the worshipping people — the tinkle of the bell 
that announces the elevation of the Host — the little 
Manger in which the Infant Christ lay amidst the 
straw, with the Mother of Grief watching over all, 
and the browsing ass standing beside them — the 
call for help to the Lady of the Seven Dolors — the 
comfort and peace of it all, as when a tired child 
comes home at the end of the day to nestle its weary 


limbs in its mother's lap. . . . Shall Doubt tear all 
this from him ? . . . "No," says the poet — the man — 
" if, after all, some people do not believe in God, 
he cannot empty his heart of the delight of it. It 
was all so restful — si paisible ! " 

Through the poem runs all that delightful sweet 
intimacy with the lords of Heaven that we see in a 
Frenchwoman who runs to a little child, gathering 
it up in her arms, and crooning it, regardless of sex, 
as her "petit Jesu." And with what skill Yvette 
and her composer have wrought the fragrance of it 
all into song ! and with what consummate power 
she utters its every subtlety and shade of meaning ! 
Here is one of the unforgettable things in all art. 

Then, in a moment Yvette puts the white from 
her soul, puts on scarlet. With what different eyes 
Francis Jammes looks upon, with far different speech 
he speaks of womanhood from the keen-searching 
eyes and bitter satirical tongue of La Forgue and 
Rollinat, whose scalding verses Yvette utters without 
mitigation of their suggestion, with full sense of their 
significance ! 

With La Forgue and Rollinat the sweet and tender 
aspect of the fair heavens is gone — giving place 
to the scowling skies that threaten the storm-tossed 
voyaging of scarred and broken souls. Both singers, 
oddly enough, uttered their art chiefly interested 
in the eternal duel of sex — above all, deeply impressed 
by the injustice doled out to womanhood in her 
battle with the cruelty of her destiny. 

In the terrible and pitiful ballad of " The Drinker 


of Absinthe" ("La Buveuse d'Absinthe ") Rollinat 
took for his symbol of pity a woman of La Villette, 
the lowest quarter of Paris — a bedraggled soul, the 
squalid victim of constant motherhood undesired, 
and of constant drunkenness. In nothing does the 
genius of the man show so supreme as in the profound 
pity aroused in the awful presence of this tattered 
soul of one whom the French call " a forget of God." 
And in all her wide-ranging art Yvette reaches to 
no more sublime heights than in her dramatic state- 
ment of this haunting and terrible thing — it is as 
though the sublime pity of the very Christ uttered 
itself through the instrumentality of her genius — 
she steps thereby to the supreme rank of tragedians 
of all time. And when the husky voice ceases from 
speaking, the pity of the dead woman, who has crept 
her way along the walls, feeling for solid support 
in the mad realm of the drunken, there are tears 
in the eyes of Yvette Guilbert. She has bared the 
soul of the broken woman ; ay, more, the soul of the 
poet who created her, the pity of the God who gathered 
her . . . 

Yvette steps out of the soul of Rollinat, enters 
the soul of La Forgue — he a literary descendant 
of Baudelaire, but even more black in bitterness. 
In La Forgue's " Our Little Companion " (" Notre 
Petite Compagne ") we find woman at duel with her 
destiny, but facing it now with mockery, and 

To La Forgue life is ever a vast farce — everyone 
is but a grimace — men lie to each other and to them- 


selves. The eternal aim is to avoid the truth. Every 
woman conceals herself behind a mask, poses her real 
self behind the part expected of her. Woman is 
the Sphinx. Man can say what he likes of woman 
— and whatever he says is all true. All women 
are one — the Woman. And to woman La Forgue 
mostly devotes his verse. To the study of woman 
he brought all his bitter irony, all his keen vision : 
and she drew him to the utterance of verse that 
rises to a rare dignity and haunting mystery by very 
intensity of eagerness to discover her soul. 

Dress a woman — and she will play the part, no 
matter who the woman, no matter what the dress. 
Clothe her in rags, she will act a life of rags ; array 
her in splendour and she will draw herself to her full 
height and act the splendour. Even in sleep she 
plays the comedy of looking as nice as she is expected 
to look. 

And it was part of the tragedy of La Forgue's 
genius that, passionately desiring to love and be 
loved, he could discover but the trickeries of woman, 
never the soul. He was dead at twenty-seven, lord 
of an astounding intensity of poetic achievement — 
his cry to the last : " When will women try to be 
our brothers ? " and uttering in counter-cry for 
womanhood : " When will men try to be our sisters ? " 

To weave this philosophy into poetic form. La 
Forgue wrote this poem of " Notre Petite Compagne," 
in which he states the idea with marvellous and 
haunting power. He took as his symbol a woman 
of the cafes of Paris who has gone through every 


experience, freed herself from the trammels of con- 
vention, and, knowing all, in the eternal duel of sex 
can turn upon the world and say with an irony that 
vaunts her triumphs : 

" Ay, but you do not know me ! I am the 
Woman ! . . ." 

Yvette and her composer, Gustave Ferrari, have 
taken for their motive, as the music to her feet, that 
waltz by De Waldteufel that one hears being played 
at every night-cafe of Paris, jigged by weary fingers 
of every weary fiddler — and to the refrain, Yvette, 
cigarette in fingers, and boldly giving by gesture 
and bearing and carriage of the body, by air and 
manner, a sense of the commonplace as the setting 
to such a woman's tawdry wayfaring, by very con- 
trast raises the sublime significance of this song to 
that triumph that she wins. 

It is no mouthing tragedy-queen that spouts the 
tremendous lines and their vast purpose, but a very 
woman of the cafes, cynical, contemptuous, with the 
triumph of her august mystery behind all. 

" If I please you," she says, " take me as I am. 
I am a woman. Handle me as you like, rough or 
smooth, I am woman. . . . Don't you know me ? 
If you would have me a saint, I pull my hair down 
smoothly over my forehead like a madonna ; if you 
would have a chorus-girl, I put up my hair and look 
reckless ; I play a part for every taste. Choose your 
style, each to his liking ; and I am it — and will make 
you mad. But, whatever outward part I play, I 
am always One — I am woman. . . . Drink of my lips. 


not of my soul. Do not look for more. You can- 
not understand. Nobody understands me — not even 
myself. Our weapons are not equal, therefore ~ I 
hold out my hand to you — you simple men-things. 
But I ? I am the eternal feminine — the enigma — 
Woman ! . . . My aim is lost in the stars. I am the 
great Isis. No man may raise the veil. No man 
has raised it. . . . Dream only of me for what I can give 
you ; don't pretend, don't try to understand Me. 
I cannot be understood. I am the Incomprehensible. 
. . . So — if my ways attract you, take me as I am. 
I am a woman. Everyone knows me. But, duchess 
or girl of the gutter, I am the same — always the One 

— WOMAN ! " 

So, to the refrain of the worn-out waltz-tune, with 
paint on cheek and fineries and fripperies, the smoke 
of cigarette curling into the air, with compelling 
gesture and wonderful voice, Yvette suggests the 
sublime mystery of womanhood in a way that never 
leaves the memory, that compels the imagination. 


A Catalogue of Books 

published by 

Is & Boon Ltd. 


(Close to Piccadilly Circus Tube Station.) 

COLONIAL Editions are issued of all Messrs. Mills 
& Boon's Novels, and of most of their books in 
General Literature. 
In the case of forthcoming books the approximate 
published prices are given. In some cases these may 
be altered before publication. 

The Catalogue is divided into two sections : the first 
(pages 1-22) contains announcements of books to be 
published during the Summer and Autumn of 1910, and 
the second (pages 23-32) contains the books published 
before July i, 19 10. 


The Parson's Pleasance. 

By P. H. DITCHFIELD, M.A.. F.S.A., F.R.S.L., 
F.R.Hist.S., Author of "The Old-time Parson," etc. 
With 27 Illustrations. Demy 8vo. 10s. 6d. net. 

The lighter studies of a literary clergyman usually 
find many readers. Mr. Ditchfield's name is well known 
as the author of many books which have attracted a 
large circle of admirers. He has written numerous 
works on history, architecture, and archgeology, and 
achieved fame with his delightful volumes on " The 
Parish Clerk " and the clerics of olden days. In the 
present volume he discourses pleasantly on many sub- 
jects, and includes in his Pleasance the charms of his 
old rectory garden, the delights of old books, the at- 
tractions of the village folk, their customs and super- 
stitions. He trots out his own hobby-horses — and there 
are several in his stable — and discourses on the quaint 

2 Mills & Boon's Catalogue 

ways of some of his revered predecessors. He has 
culled some flowers from foreign travel, and gathered 
in his Pleasance many choice plants. The book will 
appeal to many and various tastes, and is well illustrated. 

Wagner at Home. 

Fully translated from the French of Judith Gautier by 
EFFIE DUNREITH MASSIF. With 12 Illustrations. 
Demy 8vo. 105. 6d. net. 

Even had Wagner never been heard of as a composer, 
the charm and intimate nature of this book would have 
made it fascinating. Judith Gautier, talented daughter 
of a famous father, has given here a picture of the 
Wagner household at its most interesting period — at 
the time when W^agner, driven into exile by the veno- 
mous onslaughts of his detractors, lived in retirement 
near Lucerne. Cosima Liszt (at the time still Frau von 
Bulow) shared this solitude, and by her strong and 
sympathetic personality aided in the accomplishment 
of his work. The writer, in a style both vivid and 
charming, has immortalised the summer days which 
she and a little company of French disciples passed 
with W^agner in this environment ; touching lightly 
and feelingly upon the domestic problems and inspiring 
the reader with her own enthusiastic partisanship. The 
book is full of entertaining and humorous incidents 
and characteristic anecdotes told at first hand about 
Wagner and his illustrious guests. The translator has 
successfully preserved the author's infectious enthusiasm 
of st^de. 

Yvette Guilbert : Struggles and Victories. 

Profusely illustrated with Caricatures, Portraits, Fac- 
similes of letters, etc. Demy 8vo. 105. 6d. net. 

The history of Yvette Guilbert's career is one of 
extreme fascination. The story of how she climbed, 
past innumerable difficulties, to the unique position 
which she holds to-day, possesses elements of positively 

Autumn Announcements, 1910 3 

absorbing interest. The greatest of her discouragements 
came from her family. They implored her to give 
up the idea of singing. Her first engagement was a 
failure, because the management was frightened at 
the originality of her method and songs. A few years 
afterwards the same management offered her a fabulous 
salary to sing the very same songs. 

When she came to England, in 1894, she took London 
by storm. Public and critics raved about her. Yvette 
Guilbert in her long black gloves was a name to conjure 

Madame Guilbert 's story of her early struggles and 
victories, of her conquest of her critics, and of her final 
triumph in the art which she has made so peculiarly her 
own, is an intensely human document that cannot fail 
in its appeal to a very wide public, and will appear in 
the original French. A complete translation of this, 
together with a critical record of Madame Guilbert's 
life by Harold Simpson, will also be included. 

My German Year. 

By I. A. R. WYLIE, Author cf " The Rajah's People." 
With 2 Illustrations in Colour and i8 from Photographs. 
Demy 8vo. los. 6d. net. 

In " My German Year " I. A. R. Wylie has added a 
striking and absorbing volume to the list of books which 
have been written on Germany and the Germans. 
The author's long and intimate acquaintance with the 
people whom she has set out to describe, her close, 
first-hand knowledge of the conditions in all the different 
classes, her unprejudiced and sympathetic insight have 
made it possible for her to say much that is new and 
interesting on an old subject. Where others have 
dealt with statistics and politics she has penetrated 
down to the character and spirit of the people them- 
selves, and revealed there the source of their greatness, 
their aims and ideals. Written in a pleasant, almost 
conversational style, with many reminiscences and 
anecdotes, " My German Year " is yet inspired with 

4 Mills & Boon's Catalogue 

a serious purpose — that of bringing about a better 
understanding and appreciation of the German char- 
acter, and certainly those who have wandered with the 
author through town and country, from the Black 
Forester's hut to the Imperial Palace, must feel that 
they have seen their cousins in another, truer, and 
more sympathetic light. 

Forty Years of a Sportsman's Life. 

With 1 8 Illustrations. Demy 8vo. 105. 6d. net. 

Steeplechasing, Ballooning, Boxing, Big-Game Shoot- 
ing, or acting as War Correspondent, they all come 
alike to Sir Claude Champion de Crespigny, whose life 
has been one long series of adventures by land, sea, and 
air. There is probably no man living who has a greater 
contempt 'for danger of any kind than Sir Claude. As 
a horseman he has probably not half a dozen superiors 
in the world ; while his chapter of accidents is long 
enough to fill a book. 

Starting life in the Navy, he eventually entered the 
Army, and saw service in India, where, incidentally, 
he won many a famous steeplechase. When the Franco- 
German War broke out he tried to get to the front, 
and was nearly arrested as a German spy. In 1889, 
at the time of the Dervish Raid, he went as a volunteer 
to Egypt, finally acting as war correspondent ; was 
through the Boer War, and took part in the Sotik 
Punitive Expedition in East Africa. 

The story of his adventures and the yarns he has 
to tell of the interesting people he has met in many 
lands make very enthralling, not to say " racy," 

The Story of the British Navy. 

By E. KEBLE CHATTERTON, Author of " Sailing 
Ships." Fully illustrated. Demy Svo. los. 6d. net. 

An attempt has been made in this book to tell in 
non-technical language for the interest of the general 

Autumn Announcements, 1910 5 

reader the story of the British Navy from the earliest 
times up to the present day. To the sons and daughters 
of an island race, to the subjects of a Sailor- King, 
whose Empire stretches beyond the Seas, such a story 
as that of the greatest Navy of the world cannot fail 
to be read with the keenest enthusiasm. It has been 
the object of the author to relate within the limits of 
a volume of moderate dimensions the fascinating 
evolution of the " mightiest ocean-power on earth." 
If it be true, as Tennyson says, that England's all-in-all 
is her Navy, if our island and our Empire are dependent 
so thoroughly on a fleet in being, it is not necessary to 
point out the demands which such a book as this should 
make on the attention of all who respect the British 
Flag. Those who read and enjoyed Mr. Chatterton's 
big volume on the history of the Sailing-Ship will ap- 
preciate this present book, which, besides its wealth of 
interesting historical detail (the result of considerable 
research), is full of exciting and inspiriting sea-fights 
and adventures. Well illustrated with pictures both 
ancient and modern, this is just the book to give to any 
boy or man who has the slightest affection for the sea 
and a loyal devotion to his Motherland. 

A Century of Ballads (1810—1910), Their 
Composers and Singers. 

By HAROLD SIMPSON. Fully illustrated. Demy 8vo. 
los. 6d. net. 

The story of popular songs, how they were written, 
their singers and their composers, is one which appeals 
to a very wide public, other than the purely musical. 

In this book Mr. Simpson, after outlining the earlier 
history and vicissitudes of English song, deals with 
the songs and singers whose names have been " house- 
hold words " for the past fifty years. 

There is a great deal of romance attaching to the 
subject of popular song ballads, and anecdotes of 
composers and singers abound in this work, which is 
written entirely from a popular and non-critical stand- 

6 Mills <Sc Boon's Catalogue 

point. The countless thousands who have Hstened to 
and delighted in Sullivan's " Lost Chord," for instance, 
have probably no idea of the circumstances under 
which it came to be written ; and the same may be said 
of a host of other songs that have been sung in almost 
every home throughout the country. 

The book is profusely illustrated with portraits of 
composers and singers, past and present, and contains 
several original fascimiles of well-known songs. 

Swiss Mountain Climbs. 

By GEORGE D. ABRAHAM, Author of " British 
Mountain Climbs," " The Complete Mountaineer." 
Illustrated with Photographs and Diagrams. Pocket 
size. Waterproof Cloth. Uniform with " British Moun- 
tain Climbs." ys. 6d. net. 

The average mountaineer who wishes to visit the 
Swiss Alps usually experiences great difficulty in select- 
ing a suitable district for his holiday. In this book 
all the leading centres are dealt with, and the attractions 
they offer are plainly set forth. Up-to-date and reliable 
descriptions are given of the routes up all the most 
important peaks, whilst the principal passes are dealt 
with. The work, which is largely the result of personal 
experience and exploration, will be found especially 
helpful for those who have passed the novitiate stages 
and wish to know something of suitable expeditions 
for guideless attempts. 

The ascents are grouped around the various centres, 
and the best maps for these are noted. Instead of 
graduated lists of courses the guides' tariffs for each 
district are included. These give a capital idea of the 
varying difficulties of the courses, and will be found 
enlightening in other ways. For instance, the cost of 
climbing so many peaks can be reckoned beforehand ; 
the expensive districts stand revealed. A great deal 
of practical information is given on other points. 

Especial attention has been bestowed on the illus- 
trations ; the bulk of these are entirely new, and pre- 
pared especially for this work.. Numerous line drawings 

Autumn Announcements, 1910 7 

showing the principal routes help to add hnish to a 
copiously illustrated book, which is of such size that it 
can be carried anywhere in the climber's pocket — a 
practical, useful, and interesting companion. 

Home Life in Ireland. 

By ROBERT LYND. Illustrated from photographs. 
Third and Popular Edition, with a New Preface. Crown 
8vo. 6s. 

Spectator. — " Mr. Lynd has written an entertaining and in- 
forming book about Ireland. On the whole, he holds the balance 
between North and South, minister and priest, and the various 
oppositions which are to be found in the country with an even 
hand. There is a specially interesting chapter on ' Marriages 
and Match-making.' We naturally have said more about points 
of difference than about points of agreement ; but our criticisms 
do not touch the real value of the book. It is the work of a close 
and interested observer." 

The German Spy System in France. 

Translated from the French of Paul Lanoir. Crown 8vo. 
55. net. 

The aim of the author is to open the eyes of his 
countrymen in France to the baneful activity of German 
spies in their midst, and to endeavour to stimulate 
public opinion to take the necessary counter-measures. 
The genesis and development are traced of the up-to- 
date and highly organised secret service now maintained 
by Germany. This service performs the double function 
of " political action " and spying proper, the former 
including the subsidisation of strikes and the propa- 
gation of anti-militarism in foreign countries, and the 
whole organisation is a striking example of German 
thoroughness. The features of the present organisation 
are described in considerable detail : many sidelights 
are thrown on famous historical personages, and the 
numerous episodes narrated are full of human interest. 
The book gives food for much anxious thought on the 
part of citizens of countries in the neighbourhood of 
the Kaiser's dominions. The possibility of the applica- 

8 Mills 6t Boon's Catalogue 

tion in England of methods similar to those whose 
successful working in France is here described can 
scarcely fail to suggest itself to the reader. Many little 
incidents, personally observed or reported in the daily 
press, assume an entirely new and interesting significa- 
tion in the light of the revelations of this work, and a 
perusal of its pages is not unlikely to leave many 
readers in doubt whether their previous scorn of " spy 
mania " was based on altogether adequate knowledge. 

Ships and Sealing Wax. 

By HANSARD WATT. With 40 illustrations by L. R. 
BRIGHTWELL. Crown 4to. 35. 6d. net. 

" Ships and Sealing Wax " is a volume of light verse 
by Hansard Watt, author of " Home-Made History," 
" Through the Loopholes of Retreat," etc. Mr. Watt's 
verses are well known to magazine readers, and the 
present volume contains many of his contributions to 
Punch. As the discerning will gather from the title, 
" Ships and Sealing Wax " deals with " many things." 
The book is delightfully illustrated by L. R. Brightwell, 
and makes one of the best presents of the season. 

The Children's Story of Westminster Abbey. 

By Miss G. E. TROUTBECK, Author of " Westminster 
Abbey " (Little Guides). Illustrated. Popular Edition. 
Crown 8vo. is. net. 

Scotsman. — " A volume with many merits as a gift-book for 
the young is ' The Children's Story of Westminster Abbey,' of 
which the author is G. E. Troutbeck. It is attractive!}' written, 
and contains many splendid photographs. Its chief object is to 
point out to British children how they may follow the great 
outlines of their country's history in Westminster Abbey, from 
the days of the far-off legendary King Lucius." 

The presentation edition at 5s. net can still be had, 
and makes a beautiful present for children. 

Pocket Tip Books, 1910 9 


The Motorist's Pocket Tip Book. 

By GEOFFREY OSBORN. Fully illustrated. 5s. net. 

The author of this book, an engineer by profession, 
has had a large and varied experience of all types of 
cars in several countries. He has compressed his 
knowledge into the pages of this book in such a manner 
that the points required to be elucidated can instantly 
be found, and if further explanation be required, the 
reader has only to turn to the chapter immediately 
preceding to find the reasons why and wherefore. 

To make this book of the utmost possible value the 
publishers have produced it in a handy pocket size and 
the author has added pages for memoranda, telephone 
numbers, maintenance charges, and the points about 
his car which no motorist can keep in his head, such as 
the engine and chassis numbers, French number plates, 
etc., so that on the score of utility and appearance it 
need never be out of the motorist's pocket. 

The Golfer's Pocket Tip Book. 

By the Authors of " The Six Handicap Golfer's Com- 
panion." Fully illustrated. 5s. net. 

" The Golfer's Pocket Tip Book " provides for the 
player who is " off " his game, a source whence he 
may extract remedies for those faults of whose existence 
he is only too well aware, but for which he has hitherto 
been unsuccessful in finding either a preventive or a 
cure. The book contains some sixty photographs 
illustrating the essential points of the golfing stroke, 
and on the opposite page will be found a few short 
sentences to explain those points to which the photo- 
graphs are intended to call attention. 

The various strokes depicted have each been chosen 
with the definite object of demonstrating some one 
faulty action, maybe of hand or foot ; and in many 

lo MiUs & Boon's Catalogue 

cases both the correct and faulty methods have been 
illustrated and explained. It is a recognised fact that 
correct " timing " rather than physical strength makes 
for success in golf ; therefore great stress has been 
laid both on the methods of playing which conduce to 
efficiency in this respect and on those which prevent 
it. Thus a complete series will be found in illustration 
of perfect foot-action and the particular function of 
hand, wrist, and body. 

Special attention has been bestowed on the art of 
putting, and the series of photographs relating thereto 
is more complete than any which has as yet been pre- 
sented to the student of golf. The accompanying 
words of wisdom emanate from Jack White, who both 
in theory and practice excels all others in this depart- 
ment of the game. 


New Volumes. 

The Aviator's Companion. 

By D. and HENRY FARMAN and Others. Crown 8vo. 
25. 6d. net. 

If the public who follow Aviation as a whole would 
take the trouble to follow the records of the various 
makes of machines, they would be struck with the 
practically complete immunity from accidents which 
attends pilots of the Farman aeroplanes, and they would 
also notice that when one Farman aeroplane is beaten 
it is usually by another of the same make, to wit, the 
London to Manchester flight. This book, besides 
appealing to the " man in the street," contains Farman's 
Theory of Flight. 

The Food Reformer's Companion. 

By EUSTACE MILES, M.A. Crown 8vo. 2s. 6d. net. 

The latest and most up-to-date work on diet from 
the pen of Mr. Eustace Miles. The author's knowledge 

Companion Series, 1910 1 1 

and bright style make the book exceptionally authori- 
tative and interesting. 

Every phase of Food Reform is touched upon, and 
the touch is always that of the practical expert. 

The book is made still more helpful by the inclusion 
of new and carefully graded recipes in Progressive 
Non-Flesh Cookery by an expert chef. There are also 
valuable practical hints for beginners on such all- 
important matters as " What to avoid," " What to 
eat," " Quantities of Food," " How many meals a 
day," etc. 

The Lady Motorist's Companion. 

By"AFOUR-INXHDRIVER." Crown 8 vo. 
This book, written mainly for women, is also useful 
to men. The chapter on " Buying a Second-hand Car " 
explains exhaustively how to find out the amount 
of wear and tear, and will prevent the purchaser being 
" done." 

The Householder's Companion. 

By F. MINTON. Crown 8vo. 2s. 6d. net. 

The Dramatic Author's Companion. 

an Introduction by ARTHUR BOURCHIER. Crown 8vo. 
2s. 6d. net. 

The Fisherman's Companion. 

By E. LE BRETON MARTIN. Crown 8vo. 2s. 6d. net. 

The Nursery Nurse's Companion. 

Compiled by HONNOR MORTEN, Author of "The 
Nurse's Dictionary," etc. Crown 8vo, paper wrapper, 
IS. net ; cloth, is. 6d. net. 

This book is mainly designed to help the would-be 
nurse and the would-be trainer of nurses. But it may 
prove of use to those who have gained their experience 
in the nursery, but would gladly bring their knowledge 

12 Mills <t Boon's Catalogue 


A First School Chemistry. 

By F. M. OLDHAM, B.A., Master at Dulwich College; 
late Scholar of Trinity Hall, Cambridge ; Author of 
"The Complete School' Chemistry." With 71 Illustra- 
tions. Crown 8vo. 25. 6d. 

The object of this book is to provide a sound elemen- 
tary course of practical and theoretical chemistry up 
to the standard of the Oxford and Cambridge Junior 
Local Examination and of the Second Class Examina- 
tion of the College of Preceptors. The instructions 
for carrying out each experiment are followed by ques- 
tions. In order to answer these questions the pupil 
must think about the essential points of the experiment. 
Special features of the book are the placing first in each 
chapter of the practical work, which is followed by the 
theoretical work in continuous form, and the diagram- 
matic character of the figures, which are such as can be 
reproduced by the pupils. The book is admirably 
adapted to lead up to the same Author's " Complete 
School Chemistry/' now in its Fourth Edition. 

Preparatory Arithmetic. 

By F. C. BOON, Principal Mathematical Master at 
Dulwich College. Crown 8vo, is. Answers, with hints 
on the solution of a number of the problems, 6d. net. 

The author has here kept in sight the importance of 
teaching all the fundamental processes by such methods 
as will not have to be unlearned later, and in such quan- 
tities that no process will be found too difficult. Recent 
developments of arithmetical methods {e.g. the use of con- 
tracted methods and of the decimalised form of £ s. d.) 
as well as facility in quick and approximately correct 
mental calculation are the chief features of the course. 

A Public School Arithmetic. 

By F. C. BOON. Crown 8vo. With or without answers, 
3s. 6d. 
This book provides a thorough grounding in the 
principles of arithmetic. It is based on the same general 

Educational Publications, 1910 


foundations as the Preparatory School Arithmetic, 
but meets the requirements of the latest developments 
of arithmetical teaching for the University and Civil 
Service Examinations. 

A New School Geometry. 

By RUPERT DEAKIN, M.A., Balliol College, Oxford, 
and London University. Crown 8vo. is. 

Practical Mathematics. 

By W. E. HARRISON, A.R.C.S., Principal of the 
Handswortli Technical College. With 2 Plates and 
90 Diagrams. Crown 8vo. With answers, 15. 6d. With- 
out answers, i5. 3^?. 

A carefully graduated course beginning with measure- 
ments and calculations based on them, and forming a 
sound introduction to the work of the Technical Schools. 
The course covers the Board of Education Syllabus of 
"Practical Mathematics and Practical Drawing" as 
given in the " Preliminary Course for Trade Students," 
also the work for the Lancashire and Cheshire and 
Midland Counties Union Preliminary Technical Certi- 

Rural Arithmetic with Household Accounts. 

B.Sc, of the Central Secondary and Evening Continuation 
Schools, Birmingham. With many diagrams. Crown 

8vO. 15. 

A course of commercial arithmetic to meet the new 
schemes for the evening continuation schools. 

A Practical Course in First Year Physics. 

By E. T. BUCKNELL, F.C.S., Headmaster of Kings- 
holme School, Weston-super-Mare, and late Science 
Master at St. Philip's Grammar School and the P.T. 
Centre, Birmingham. With 85 Illustrations. Crown 

8vO. 15. 

This course is intended to provide a thorough ground- 
ing in the elements of physics. It covers the syllabus 
for the Leaving Certificate and Army Qualifying 

14 Mills 6t Boon's Catalogue 


Margaret Rutland. 

By THOMAS COBB, Author of " The Anger of Olivia." 
Crown 8vo. 6s. 

Nobody, in Margaret Rutland's case, seemed to 
remember that " still waters run deep." It did not 
occur to those who ought to have known her best, 
how delicately some perfectly natural longings were 
hidden behind the calm surface. She went her way : 
tranquil, charitable, unsatisfied, until fate met her in 
the person of Gilbert HamiUiett, who was by several 
years her junior. 

Gilbert, unfortunately, had known Prudence Farmar, 
as well as much trouble, before he crossed Margaret 
Rutland's path ; and though this was strewed with 
primroses in the beginning, there was a multitude of 
prophets to forecast its desolate end. 

But although this might not be such a brilliantly 
happy one as that of her friends Max Stainer and 
Christobel, it was by no means entirely miserable. If 
Margaret Rutland could have lived her life over again, 
it is certain she would not have chosen that Gilbert 
Hammett should have no part in it. 

The Honourable Derek. 

By R. A. WOOD-SEYS (Paul Gushing). Crown 8vo. 65. 

" The Honourable Derek " is a novel of delight. The 
scene is laid in England and America, and concerns a 
witty young Englishman and a brilliant American 
woman. " The Honourable Derek " bears the hall 
mark of literary genius, and is a novel full of surprises, 
capturing the reader's curiosity from the first to the 
last page. 

Summer Novels, 1910 


Two Men and Gwenda. 

By MABEL BARNES-GRUNDY, Author of " Hilary on 
Her Own." Crown 8vo. 6s. 

Mrs. Barnes-Grundy, who moved to laughter a large 
public with her " Vacillations of Hazel," has again 
touched the humorous note in her new novel, " Two 
Men and Gv^'enda " ; but this time there is pathos as 

Gwenda, a clever, gay, but very feminine and human 
country girl, marries a Londoner, a thorough man of the 
world. She loves him, but her smart environment irks 
her. They gradually drift apart. How she eventually 
wins through to happiness we leave Mrs. Barnes-Grundy 
to relate. " Granty," with her wise sayings and pink 
shawl with bobs, is an old lady we would much like to 

Laughter and tears alternate throughout the book, 
but the final note is laughter. 

The Girl from his Town. 

By MARIE VAN VORST, Author of " First Love," 
" In Ambush." Crown 8vo. 6s. 

In this altogether charming and delightful love story 
Miss Van Vorst has taken the young man out of a 
Montana mining town and dropped him down uncere- 
moniously in the midst of London's smart set. There 
he sees and hears and meets Lotty Lane, the reigning 
comic opera success. It is she who is the Girl from 
his Town. A clever and dashing story that will add to 
Miss Van Vorst's already brilliant reputation. 

The Enemy of Woman. 

By WINIFRED GRAHAM, Author of " Man.-." Crown 
8vo. 6s. 

To all lovers of fiction, a new novel by Winifred 
Graham is always welcome, and perhaps this, her last 
work, is more powerful than any which has preceded it. 

1 6 Mills & Boon's Catalogue 

Invariably she holds a theory of deeply seeking into 
character, while exposing modern evils. The raison 
d'etre of " The Enemy of Woman " is to portray what 
disastrous consequences are engendered by a mad 
desire for Woman's Suffrage, and the bad effects on 
home life of unbalancing feminine minds. The opening 
chapters are startlingly dramatic, with an admixture of 
tears and laughter, creating an intensely human interest. 
Various types of women, in this engrossing story, show 
what different forces of evil dog the footsteps of those 
who always crave to know the " reason why " of all 
restraint, and talk much nonsense about Women's 
Rights. The plot reveals how well-educated, and 
otherwise blameless, women may be led even to crime 
by this obsession. Winifred Graham is, above all, an 
idealist. Her book reveals the pain, horror, and aver- 
sion she cannot conceal, of womanhood being lowered 
and dragged through the mud by the Shrieking Sister- 
hood. She considers women ought to be on the side of 
the angels, not constantly straining after strife, and 
she never uses a worn-out model. 

A fine NoVet. 

Rebecca Drew. 

By EDITH DART. Crown 8vo. 65. 
" Rebecca Drew " is a quiet, emotional tale, dealing 
with the lives and characters of country folk, with the 
exception of the Stranger. The story is filled with the 
atmosphere and feeling of the West country, where the 
scene is laid. The chief personages are Rebecca Drew 
and the man who suddenly appears in her life, and 
henceforward moulds it more or less unwillingly and 
unconsciously. They make a striking study in contrast : 
Rebecca, the strong, self-reliant woman, who has depths 
unplumbed, unguessed tenderness and passion beneath 
the surface, and the Stranger, an erratic, charming, 
gifted creature, " all things by turn and nothing long." 
How their lives meet, touch, part, and act upon one 
another is the theme of the novel. To the discerning 

Summer Novels, 1910 17 

reader the end is only apparent failure, since by suffering 
has come, to one at least of the pair, self-knowledge and 
life in the deepest sense. 

The Glen. 

By MARY STUART BOYD, Author of " Her Besetting 
Virtue," " The Man in the Wood." Crown 8vo. 6s. 

The scene of this present-day novel is laid chiefly 
in a West Highland valley, into whose remote placidity 
drift distracting elements in the form of a group of 
London society people, and a Norwegian sailor whose 
disabled schooner is washed into the bay in a gale. 

The plot shows deft handling of strongly contrasted 
lives. The romantic fancy of Nannie for the phil- 
andering Englishman reveals girlish devotion to an 
imaginary ideal. The reluctant wooing of the caustic- 
tongued Elspie b)/' her phlegmatic but persistent suitor 
is full of amusing situations and pithy dialogue, while 
the romance of Rachel Rothe and the Man from the 
Sea strikes the deep note of tragic passion. 

The male characters are widely diverse. The plausible 
gentleman of leisure, the brilliant Highland student 
with his dogged determination to win Civil Service 
honours, the greatly daring but simple and manly 
young Norwegian skipper, though true to life, are poles 

The novel opens and closes in the glen with its sentinel 
mountains and wave-beat shore. The intervening 
scenes take place in London and on board the Nor- 
wegian schooner the Skaal. Apart from its strong 
romantic interest, the novel is full of humorous char- 

A brilliant first NoVel. 

Jehanne of the Golden Lips. 

in colour. Crown 8vo. 65. 

This fascinating love story of Queen Jehanne of 
Naples has a double interest. In it accurate history 

1 8 Mills 6t Boon's Catalogue 

and thrilling romance are deftly welded together so 
as to give us a splendidly human picture of Jehanne of 
Anjou, the wonderful Mary Stuart of the South, her 
heroism, her waywardness, her genius for dominion in 
her relations with every one, and of her courtiers, her 
enemies, and her one true love, Prince Louis of Taranto, 
whose wooing of her is more passionate and daring than 
Romeo's of Juliet. Their struggles between love and 
honour before the murder of Jehanne's first husband, 
Andrea of Hungary, make enthralling reading. The 
author has caught the very spirit of fierce, luxurious, 
intriguing Naples of 1345, by culling direct from the 
Neapolitan archives the vivid details of such chronicles 
as that of Tristan Caracciolo, the noble scholar who 
heard the living Golden Lips charm all ears, and has 
dared to give an unvarnished account of the reckless 
gorgeous age, while remaining equally faithful to the 
historical facts. This is a feat which no other novelist 
on the subject has yet accomplished. There is also 
given a new and absorbingly interesting theory as to 
the Queen's share in her encumbering husband's murder, 
the tale of which is told in almost haunting fashion. 
Boccaccio's pleasant relations with the Queen, the 
audacious, almost successful plot of the Red Count of 
Savoy to carry her off, the rush of the Hungarian 
forces upon Naples, and the magnificent victory of 
Queen Jehanne and Prince Louis in the end, are only 
a few of the salient points to be mentioned at hazard 
in a book of which every page contains some exciting 

The Sins of the Children. 

By HORACE W. C. NEWTE, Author of " Calico Jack," 
" Sparrows." Crown 8vo. 6s. 

In this remarkable novel Mr. Newte has deserted the 
byways of London life, and has gone to the world-old 
subject of filial ingratitude. It may be objected that 
the last word has been said on such a theme in " King 

Summer Novels, 1910 19 

Lear " and " Pere Goriot," but while these acknow- 
ledged masterpieces respectively deal with Kings and 
Princesses, and the denizens of smart life in the Paris 
of the Restoration, " The Sins of the Children," in 
dejncting ordinary, everyday folk, should make a con- 
vincing appeal to the many who are moved by that 
considerable portion of the ironic procession in which 
average humanity lives, moves, and has its being. 
" The Sins of the Children " is in two parts ; the first 
deals with the youth and girlhood of a charming daugh- 
ter of the suburbs ; of her single-hearted, devoted 
father ; of her selfish absorption in lover and husband, 
and of the unhappy consequences of her neglect of one 
she should have loved and cherished. The second 
part deals with the motherhood of the heroine, and of 
her experiences with a selfish son, who, in oehaving to 
her as she did to her father, causes her to realise her 
own ingratitude, which gives rise to poignant and un- 
availing remorse. A romantic love story runs through 
the work, which also contains a variety of quaint char- 
acter studies. As " The Sins of the Children " will 
doubtless be read by every child and parent, it should 
make the widest of appeals 

Written in the Rain. 

By JOHN TREVENA, Author of " Granite." Crown 
8vo. 65. 

" Written in the Rain " is a volume of stories by this 
popular author. As they have all been written in that 
part of the country where it raineth every day, the title 
is not wholly inappropriate. There will be, in defiance 
of superstition, thirteen items : a problem story, an 
impossible story, two poignant reminiscences, two 
studies of different types of broken-down gentlemen, 
two tales of the imagination, a short comedy entitled 
" A Comet for Sale," three light Devonshire stories 
(Dartmoor), and a descriptive sketch, entitled " Matri- 
mony," of a wedding at Widdicombe in the early ages. 

2 Mills 6c Boon's Catalogue 

An Original LoVe Stori). 

The Valley of Achor. 

Author of " The Coming of Aurora." Crown 8vo. 6s. 

" The Valley of Achor — or trouble — for a door of 
hope," is the quotation from Hosea from which this book 
takes its title. It is a story of modern days, so modern 
that recent events have prompted the main idea of the 
plot. Nigel Pitcairn returns from a voyage of explora- 
tion, and after an enthusiastic reception, is discredited, 
not only by the world at large, but by the woman he 
loves, and for whose sake moreover the dangers and 
hardships of his travels were undergone. As his creed 
has always been that man is master of his fate, he knows 
all will come right in the end, and only for one brief 
moment loses heart. 

How his good faith is finally proved, and his claims 
acknowledged, remains a mystery until nearly the end 
of the book. The characters of the two principal women 
are widely different, Portia Quint on, coldly logical, 
ambitious and self-centred, while Nancy Devenant is 
quite the reverse — slightly inconsequent, but with a 
heart of gold ; her brother Howard, a learned professor 
and Pitcairn's rival for Portia's favour, finally clears 
the latter's name in rather a curious manner. An 
enthusiastic golfer and his wife, among the minor 
characters, supply the lighter touches to the story. 

The Pilgrimage of a Fool. 

By J. E. BUCKROSE, Author of " A Golden Straw," 
etc. Crown 8vo. 6s. 

Readers of " A Golden Straw " may recollect how 
superstition played a notable part in that fine story. 
In a measure perhaps they will again be reminded of 
that work in " The Pilgrimage of a Fool," which is 
the simple history of a commonplace soul. In it the 
secret longing of nearly every man's and woman's soul 
for " something more " becomes to a certain extent 
articulate. The hero's love story is interesting and 

Summer Novels, 1910 21 

sincere, while human pathos and folly jostle good 
thoughts in the book as they do in real life. The 
whole thing is curiously human even in its imperfections. 
Mills & Boon heartily recommend " The Pilgrimage 
of a Fool " as a novel that will please even the most 
critical reader, for its author has wit and humour and 
a knowledge of human nature which is not surpassed 
by any living novelist. 

The Island of Souls. A Sensational Fairy Tale. 

By M. URQUHART, Author of "A Fool of Faery." 
Crown 8vo. 6s. 

Blue-Grey Magic. 

By SOPHIE COLE, Author of " A Wardour Street 
Idyll." Crown 8vo. 6s. 

" Blue-Grey Magic " takes its name from some 
mysterious letters written on blue-grey paper to Hester 
Adean, whose sweet and gentle personality attracts 
" The Doctor," a strong, whimsical man, devoid of 
sentiment, and Stella Chase, an advanced modern girl 
of the extreme type. The situation between these 
persons and the story of Hester's development is told 
in that original way which readers of Miss Cole's novels 
naturally expect from her. The secret of the letters is 
well kept until the dramatic climax is reached. " Blue- 
Gre}^ Magic " is a touching and human love story with 
a happy ending. It is certain to please the large circle 
of readers who found " Arrows from the Dark " and 
" A Wardour Street Idyll " so delightful. 

The Palace of Logs. 

By ROBERT BARR, Author of " Cardillac " and 
" The Sword Maker." Crown 8vo. 6s. 

Body and Soul. 

By LADY TROUBRIDGE, Author of " The Woman 
who Forgot," " The Cheat," etc. Crown Svo. 6s. 

" Body and Soul " is a new long novel by Lady 
Troubridge, whose popularity is rapidly increasing. This 
is not surprising when it is remembered that Lady 

2 2 Mills & Boon's Catalogue 

Troubridge writes with such easy grace and never fails to 
give her readers a story of fascinating interest. 


By MAURICE LEBLANC, Author of " Arsene Lupin." 
Crown 8vo. 65. 

An entirely new " Arsene Lupin " adventure of 
absorbing interest, with never a dull page. 

Sport of Gods. 

By H. VAUGHAN-SAWYER. Crown 8vo. 65. 
A powerful Indian novel of modern life. 

With Poison and Sword 

By W. M. O'KANE. Crown 8vo. 6s. 
A dashing Irish romance. 

The Vanishing Smuggler. 

By STEPHEN CHALMERS. Crown 8vo. 6s. 
This is a fascinating tale of old smuggling days on the 
Scottish coast. Smuggle-erie and his reckless band, 
the old Coastguard, with his memories of Trafalgar 
and Nelson, dainty Grisel and the quaint village folk 
of Morag, are portrayed with a warmth of reality that 
is rare in fiction. 


Sparrows, the Story of an 

Unprotected Girl. Horace W. C. Newte. 

The Adventures of Captain 

Jack. Max Pemberton. 

The Prodigal Father. J. Storer Clouston. 

D'Arcy of the Guards. L. E. Shipman. 

The novel of the Play at the St. James's Theatre. 

General Literature 23 


The Court of William III. 

many Illustrations. Deni}- 8vo. 155. net. 
Times. — " The authors have steered most dexterously between 
the solidity of history and the irresponsibility of Court bio- 
graphy. Their book consists of a number of character studies 
done with care and distinction ; it is a welcome change from 
the mass of literature whose only function is to revive the 
gossip and scandal centred round a throne. It is a series of 
portraits of the men and women whose lives were spent in 
making history." 

Morning Post. — ■" Done with fairness and thoroughness. . . . 
The book has many conspicuous merits." 

Rambles with an American. 

By CHRISTIAN TEARLE, Author of " Holborn Hill." 
Fully illustrated. los. 6d. net. 
Spectator. — "The idea of the book is good, and it is well 
carried out, and a reader, if he is of the right sort, will be greatly 
charmed with it." 

Morning Post. — " Delightful." 

Daily Chronicle. — "A happy idea. Originally conceived, 
well written, and entirely readable." 

My Thirty Years in India. 

By Sir EDMUND C. COX, Bart., Deputy Inspector- 
General of Police, Bombay Presidency. With 6 Illustra- 
tions. Demy 8vo. 85. net. 

An Art Student's Reminiscences 
of Paris in the Eighties. 

By SHIRLEY FOX, R.B.A. With illustrations by John 
Cameron. Demy 8vo. 105. 6d. net. 

Sporting Stories. 

By THORMANBY. Fully illustrated. Demy 8vo. 
I05. 6d. net. 

Dailv Express. — " Contains the best collection of anecdotes 
of this generation. It is a perfect mine of good things." 
Sporting Life. — " This vast storehouse of good stories." 

24 Mills 6c Boon's Catalogue 

British Mountain Climbs. 

By GEORGE D. ABRAHAM, Author of " The Com- 
plete Mountaineer," Member of the Climbers' Club, etc., 
etc. Illustrated with Photographs and Diagrams. 
Pocket size. Waterproof cloth. 7s. 6d. net. (See also 
p. 6.) 

Nature. — " Is sure to become a favourite among moun- 

Sportstnan. — " Eminently a practical manual." 

A Manual for Nurses. 

By SYDNEY WELHAM, M.R.C.S. (Resident Medical 
Officer, Charing Cross Hospital). With Diagrams. 
Crown 8vo. 35. 6d. net. 

In this work the aim of the author is to present a 
volume useful to all grades of Nurses, the various sub- 
jects being treated in a lucid and practical manner. 
Nursing, the first subject dealt with, is a section in 
itself ; the other subjects necessary for a Nurse to study 
during her training are dealt with seriatim — Anatomy 
and Physiology, in concise yet thorough chapters, con- 
taining all essential points without unnecessary and 
confusing details. 

The Romance of the Oxford Colleges. 

By FRANCIS GRIBBLE. With a Photogravure and 
16 full-page Illustrations. Crown 8vo. 6s. 
W estminster Gazette. — " Does not contain a dull page." 
World. — "Very agreeable and entertaining." 
Daily Chronicle. — "Marvellously well-informed." 

The Bolster Book. A Book for the Bedside. 

By HARRY GRAHAM, Author of " Deportmental 

Ditties." With an illustrated cover by Lewis Baumer. 

Second Edition. Crown 8vo. 6s. 

Daily Chronicle. — "Humorists are our benefactors, and 

Captain Graham being not only a humorist, but an inventor 

of humour, is dearer to me than that ' sweet Tuxedo girl,' of 

a famous song, who, 'though fond of fun,' is 'never rude.' 

I boldly assume that Biffin, like ' the Poet Budge ' and Hosea 

Biglow, is a ventriloquist's doll — a doll more amusing than 

any figure likely to appear in the dreams of such dull persons 

as could be put to sleep by articulate laughter." 

General Literature 25 

Letters of a Modern Golfer to 
his Grandfather. 

Being the correspondence of Richard Allingham, Esq., 
arranged by HENRY LEACH. Crown 8vo. 65. 
Outlook.— " There are many people who lack the energy to 
apply themselves to the study of a technical manual on any 
science or pastime, but who will readily absorb the requisite 
information when it is served up in the guise of fiction. A 
book in which the human interest is as marked as the practical 
instruction. Young Richard Allingham is something of a 
philosopher as well as being an independent theorist of the 
game of games. He also makes a nice lover. Hence we have 
in this volume all the factors which give charm to the life of 
the links. The volume will be an acquisition to the golfer's 

Auction Bridge. 

By ARCHIBALD DUNN. Containing the Revised Rules 

of the game. Handsomely bound in cloth and forming a 

companion volume to " Club Bridge." Crown 8vo. 5s. net. 

Sportsman. — " A study of this manual v/ill profit them in 

knowledge and in pocket." 

Club Bridge. 

By ARCHIBALD DUNN, Author of " Bridge and How 

to Play it." Crown 8vo. 55. net. 
Evening Standard. — " This is, in fact, ' the book.' " 
Manchester Guardian. — " A masterly and exhaustive treatise." 

The Children's Story of Westminster Abbey, 

By Miss G. E. TROUTBECK, Author of " Westminster 
Abbey" (Little Guides). With 4 Photogravure Plates, 
and 21 Illustrations from Photographs. Crown 8vo. 
5s. net. (See p. 8.) 

The Children's Story of the Bee. 

By S. L. BENSUSAN, Author of " Wild Life Stories." 
Illustrated by C. Moore Park. Crown 8vo. 5s. net. 

Deportmental Ditties. 

By HARRY GRAHAM, Author of " Ruthless Rhymes 
for Heartless Homes," etc. Illustrated by Lewis Baumer. 
Second Edition. Crown 4to. 3s. 6d. net. 

Times. — " Clever, humorous verse." 

Daily Graphic. — "Mr. Graham certainly has the knack." 

2 6 Mills & Boon's Catalogue 

Through the Loopholes of Retreat. 

By HANSARD WATT. With a portrait of Cowper in 
photogravure. Crown 8vo. 3s. 6d. net. 

Kings and Queens of France. 

A Concise History of France. 

By MILDRED CARNEGY. With a Preface by the 
Bishop of Hereford. With a Map and 4 full-page 
Illustrations. Crown 8vo. 3s. 6d. 

Pure Folly : The Story of those Re- 
markable People The Follies. 

Told by FITZROY GARDNER. With a new song by 
H. G. Pelissier. Illustrated by Geoffrey Holme, 
Norman Morrow, Arthur Wimperis, John Bull, etc. 
Crown 4to. 2s. 6d. net. 

Popular Edition. Thirteenth Thousand 

The New Theology. 

By the Rev. R. J. CAMPBELL. Fully revised and with 
a new Preface. With a full account of the Progressive 
League, including the speeches of Hall Caine and Bernard 
Shaw, Crown 8vo. is. net. 

Votes for Women. A Play in Three Acts. 

By ELIZABETH ROBINS. Crown 8vo. is.. 


The Chauffeur's Companion. {Second Edition) 

By " A FOUR-INCH DRIVER." With 4 Plates and 
5 Diagrams. Waterproof cloth. Crown Svo. 2S. net. 
Country Life. — " Written in simple language, but reveals in 
almost every line that the author is a master of his subject." 

The Gardener's Companion. 

By SELINA RANDOLPH. With an Introduction by 
Lady Alwyne Compton. Crown Svo. 2s. net. 
Daily Mail. — " The author has had many years' experience 
of the round of duties in one of the most charming gardens in 
Kent ; but in this book she studiously puts herself in the place 
of the beginner, and her crowded chapters are well designed 
to help one who is starting in garden-making." < 

Companion Series 27 

The Six-Handicap Golfer's Companion. 

By " TWO OF HIS KIND." With chapters by H. S. 
Colt on Golf generally and Harold H. Hilton on 
Scientific Wooden Club Play. Fully illustrated (from 
photographs of Jack White and others). Crown 8vo. 
25. 6d. net. 
Golf Illustrated. — " The Author's aim is to teach inferior players 
how to reduce their handicaps to at least six. There is a great 
deal of sound advice in the book, and its value is greatly in- 
creased by two excellent chapters by Mr. H. H. Hilton and Mr. 
H. S. Colt." 

The Mother's Companion. 

d'Academie). With an Introduction by Sir Lauder 
Brunton, M.D., F.R.C.P., F.R.S. Crown 8vo. 25. 6d. net. 

The Rifleman's Companion. 

By L. R. TIFFINS. With 6 Illustrations. Crown 3vo. 
25. 6d. net. 

The author is well known as a skilled " Inter- 
national " shot, who has very exceptional facilities for 
experimental work. His knowledge of applied science, 
joined to long experience of rifle-making, has placed 
him in the front rank of rifle experts. 

The new book is practical, while not neglecting 
such knowledge of theory as is essential for useful 
practice, and shows the rifleman how to get the 
best work out of his weapon. 

The Poultry Keeper's Companion. 

trations. Crown 8vo. 25. 6d. net. 

The aim of the author has been to cater for the 
amateur, small-holder and farmer. All the systems 
of utility poultry-farming are discussed : Incubation 
and Rearing, Egg Production, Laying Strains, Table 
Poultry, Markets and Marketing are exhaustively dealt 
with, and there is a description of the most useful 
breeds of poultry. Diseases are described with the 
treatment in each case. A part of the book is devoted 
to Duck Farming. 



Crown 8vo. 6s. each. 

Orpheus in Mayfair 

The Sword Maker 
A Golden Straw 
Render unto Caesar 
The Bill-Toppers 
The Prodigal Father 
The Anger of Olivia 

2 fid Editiofi 
t^th Edition 
T^rd Editioti 
2 nd Edition 

4th Edition 
2 nd Edition 

Maurice Baring. 
Robert Barr. 
Robert Barr. 
J. E. Buckrose. 
Mrs. Vere Campbell. 
Andre Castaigne. 
J. Storer Clouston. 
Thomas Cobb. 

Mr. Burnside's Responsibility 

Thomas Cobb. 

A Wardour Street Idyll . 

Sophie Cole. 

Arrows from the Dark 

Sophie Cole. 

Fame . • • Z^d Edition 

B. M. Croker. 

The Education of Jacqueline 

^rd Edition 

Claire de Pratz. 

Elisabeth Davcnay . z^d Edition 

Claire de Pratz. 

My Lady Wentworth 

Allan Fea. 

Mary . . • ^th Edition 

Winifred Graham. 

The End and the Beginning 3s. 6d. . 

Cosmo Hamilton. 

Brummell Again .... 

Cosmo Hamilton. 

Margot Munro .... 

M. E. Hughes. 

No. 19 . . . 27id Edition 


Edgar Jepson. 


VXS'X —continued. 

Bound Together 

2nd Edition 

Mary E. Mann. 

The Last Lord Avanley 


Gerald Maxwell. 

Mary up at Gaffries . 

\th Edition 

S. C. Nethersole. 

Calico Jack . 

2,rd Edition 

Horace W.C.Newte. 

Draw in Your Stool 


Oliver Onions. 

Harm's Way . 


Lloyd Osbourne. 

The Stairway of Honour 

2nd Edition 

Maud Stepney Raw- 

Miss Pilsbury's Fortune 


Christine R. Shand. 

When Love Knocks . 


Gilbert Stanhope. 

The Veil 

^th Edition 

E. S. Stevens. 

HolbornHill . 


Christian Tearle. 

The Woman who Forgot 

Lady Troubridge. 

The First Law 

2nd Edition 

Lady Troubridge. 

The Cheat 


Lady Troubridge. 

The Fool of Faery . 


M. Urquhart. 

Royal Lovers . 


Helene Vacaresco. 

First Love 


Marie van Vorst. 

The Ring's Highway 


H. B. Marriott Wat- 

The Captain's Daughter 


Helen H. Watson. 

Tess of Ithaca 


Grace Miller White. 

An Averted Marriage 

2 /id Edition 

Percy White. 

Memoirs of a Buccaneer 


Robert Williams. 

The Rajah's People . 

6t/i Edition 

I. A. R. Wylie. 

A Blot on the Scutcheon 

2nd Edition 

May Wynne. 

For Church and Chieftain 


May Wynne. 



Crown 8vo. 6s. each. 
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The Adventures of Captain Jack 

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Gordon Holmes. 

Edgar Jepson and 
Maurice Leblanc. 

Anthony Partridge. 

Max Pemberton. 



The Veil 

E. S. Stevens. 

Peter Pan: His Book, His 


His Career, His Friends . 

G. D. Drennan. 

Mary ... 


Winifred Graham. 

The End and the Beginning 

Cosmo Hamilton. 

Arsene Lupin. The Novel of 

the Play 

Edgar Jepson and 
Maurice Leblanc. 

Cumner's Son. Entirely New. Cloth 

Sir Gilbert Parker. 

Beware of the Dog. Entirely 

New . 

Mrs. Baillie Reynolds. 

The Dollar Princess. The . 

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the Flay . 


Harold Simpson. 

For Church and Chieftain ■ 


May Wynne. 

Wee Macgreegor 



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Barry Pain. 

Thomas Henry 


W. Pett Ridge. 

Tales of King Fido . 


J. Storer Clouston. 

The Diary of a Baby 


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